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The Burning House, by H. David Blalock
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Booklocker.com
Published: 2003
Review Posted: 11/3/2004
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

The Burning House, by H. David Blalock

Book Review by David Hart

Have you read this book?

This is the second of what will be/are six books, the Thran Chronicles. Fifteen years have passed since the events of the last book (or perhaps seven --- accurate chronology isn't Blalock's strength). Under Andalarn's care House Than is prospering, and again becoming an important political force on the island. But Suum hires mercenaries and conspires with House Foret to gain control of the north of the island, betraying and attacking a Kell clan in the process. Meanwhile Andalarn is promoted to be Ascendant, a sort of Mayor of the island, so his intelligent, well-liked son Daepar becomes the new Thran Jarl. On the way to take up the appointment Andalarn and his wife disappear. Daepar inexplicably changes personality, alienating his wife and supporters, and makes a series of bad decisions. Andalarn turns up again, having somehow spent a year on a short side-trip. Various political turmoils occur.

When I reviewed Thran Reborn last year, I gave it 2 stars. This score included an 'Encourage the new author' bonus, but in retrospect I think it may also have benefited from the contrast with some seriously bad books I had read not long before. Still, has the experience gained from writing the first book improved the second? Wrong question. According to the 'Author's Note' in The Burning House, the Thran Chronicles was written as one volume and subsequently split into six books, presumably for publishing reasons. So it's not surprising that the style of this book is much as the last. In particular it suffers from same fragmented, episodic feel. One reason for this is the way that passage of time is handled: often several weeks will turn out to have passed since the last chapter, without this being signaled adequately to the reader. Another is the storyline: frequently several chapters will be devoted to some seemingly important plot element, for example a military threat, which then peters out and the storyline meanders elsewhere. However the main reason for the disconnected feeling is the brevity of the chapters. The longest are seven pages long (and are usually internally subdivided); the average length is three pages; and one occupies just half a page! With most new chapters comes a change of viewpoint, and often of month. The result is a book with no sense of a cohesive whole, and one which completely lacks a 'grab' factor.

These tiny chapters have another side-effect: the book has 220 pages but is effectively shorter, as there are so many half-blank pages between chapters. What happens in this short book? Not a lot. Whereas the stylistic defects of Thran Reborn were masked by the presence of reasonable amounts of plot and magic, here there is little of either. Instead we have political machinations, alliances made and broken, the odd battle; but nothing that is central to what is presumably the main storyline of the Chronicles: the Diur trying to break back into this reality. Add the tendency for the characters to act illogically and some rather trite dialogue, and the result is a book that I found quite irritating. Avoid.
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