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What Danny Birt has done is to take the basic trappings of much of modern fantasy literature, and interwoven them with unique elements. The result is a conception at once familiar and unique, a world where there are elves and dwarves, for example, but elves and dwarves that are also uniquely suited to the world that Birt creates in Ending an Ending. In a way, what Birt does is take such common elements and add a number of personal components, resulting in a fantasy at once familiarly original, and originally familiar.
The reader of Ending an Ending is not eased into the setting, as a result. Birt makes demands on the reader, hence his insitence that the book is not suited for the beginning reader of fantasies. And he is right. The book makes its demands upon the reader, these demands are understandable, and the result at the book's end is a satisfying read.
Phsyically, Ending an Ending has further demands. The decision to use a typeface slightly smaller than usual was a compromise between the manuscript's length, and the need to keep the book's size at a more manageable length. Too long, too thick a book, and the price would have been unattractive as a result. The reader, then, must concentrate, which is not a bad thing: it results in an inevitable slowing down of the reader's reading speed, and this adds to the immersion of the reader in the world of Ending an Ending.
Normally, I avoid multi-volume fantasies, usually because the format is such an omnipresent staple of mundanely commercial fantastic fiction. It is easier, that is, to take a standard process, and extend it through many volumes. What makes the Laurian Pentology different, for me, is the emphasis upon unique elements, and the refusal to pander to first-time fantasy readers. The result is a work that shows promise, for the series, for the author, for the possibilities of standard fantasy.
You can do worse than read Ending an Ending, and it is possible to do better. But you should, at the very least, give it a go: you should, as a result, find yourself enjoying the first of a special sequence of books, and an author of much promise.
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