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We all know that most reviews begin with a brief synopsis of the basis of the plot and, of course, attempt to avoid completely spilling the beans for potential readers that are supposed to react to the review somehow. For the sake of convention, I'll play the game - sigh!
The Redemption of Althalus begins by introducing the hero - a very lucky, sarcastic, acerbic, witty and quite hilarious joke telling ne'er do well who's an accomplished thief and highwayman that will stoop to the odd murder or two, if it's necessary. Naturally, he survives by his wits and does as little work as is humanly possible to produce his daily bread. Does this sound to you like a chilling evil protagonist in need of lifelong redemption that can only be achieved through the direct intervention of God and his sister, Dweia, the fertility goddess? Naah - I didn't think so either!
In an extraordinarily weak, almost cartoonish imitation of The Fellowship of the Ring, a group of good guys is rounded up to do battle with Daeva, God's evil brother who is trying to undo all of God's good stuff by changing the past. This ragtag little band, led by Althalus and Dweia, includes Andine, a spoiled little princess with a shriek that will break glass and annoy anybody; Bheid, a pious astrologer-priest; Gher, an apprentice thief who would love to follow in his mentor's footsteps (so much for redemption!); Eliar, a young mercenary warrior who slaughters Andine's father in a battle and then promptly begins to follow his hormones into love with her; and, finally, Leitha, a "witch" who can read minds.
Other than actually saying this novel contains many of the standard elements of a fantasy - battles, characters, good, bad, magic, quest, and so on - there is little that can be said to rescue this novel from use as a doorstopper. Dialogue is stilted and repetitive. I lost count of how many times the plot is actually re-told within the novel by having the characters repeat events to one another. Enough already! The writing is pitched at such a childish level as to be insulting and patronizing. Dialogue is stilted and repetitive. The religious elements of the novel are so heavy-handed as to amount to preaching. Opportunities for fleshing out the story line with descriptive passages of scenery, history, mythology, battles, customs, whatever, are ignored. Oh, did I say that the dialogue was stilted and repetitive?
This would be a poor enough effort if it were Eddings' only book. But it suffers doubly by comparison with past successes like The Belgariad and The Malloreon.
On a more positive note, this novel would probably be a pretty decent screenplay to adapt to a teen's role-playing fantasy video game.
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