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Upon the Shoulders of Vengeance, by James McCann Book Review | SFReader.com
Upon the Shoulders of Vengeance, by James McCann Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Publish America Published: 2003 Review Posted: 4/29/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 0 out of 10
Upon the Shoulders of Vengeance, by James McCann
Book Review by C. Dennis Moore
Have you read this book?
Okay, let me see if I can make some sense out of this one.
Nalor is a place of wizards, elves, kings, and adventurers. Forest is probably the main character. An undetermined amount of time ago his home in the Coastal Mountains was attacked by a race called the Krim 'Tiak and only Forest survived. When the story opens, Forest is living as a vagabond and has been arrested for stealing bread. He's receiving his punishment, 100 lashes with a poison-tipped whipped, when Princess Kimbra spies him from her window and, on the strength of a tarot reading she'd taken that morning where she was shown the thief card, she has Forest spared. Forest is entered into an apprenticeship program in the kingdom, but not long into it, he receives word from home that he's needed (apparently his people were merely enslaved and not killed), so he convinces his "mentor" to let him go with the promise that he'll return once he saves his people. Desperate for adventure, the princess secretly joins him.
Somewhere along the way, the pair are met by an old wizard they call Old Man. Old Man enlists their aid on a different quest, to retrieve some objects needed by the Chosen One (exactly why these objects were needed, I never understood). So Forest and Kimbra postpone their own quest in order to join Old Man's band of travelers.
Meanwhile, Alviss, a young wizard in another town, is undergoing the rite of manhood. He hopes to, after winning his manhood robes, face his enemy in combat and win the hand of the woman he loves, Andras. Alviss loses the competition, but before he can feel too bad about it, his master, Eistein the wizard, tells him he must set out on a quest to stop the Chosen One.
Meanwhile, Terrell the Wild--who is really Princess Kimbra's long lost brother who abandoned his father's kingdom years ago--is met by a tribe of Umbrians who are about to be enslaved by the Krim 'Tiak. Terrell joins them and leads them to victory against their oppressors. Later, he joins Alviss's quest to stop the Chosen One.
Eventually, within the last 30 pages, all of these different threads finally come together and form something like a coherent story. However, since the story has no real climax, no real resolution to all the things we've read up to that point, and as far as I can tell, no real point at all, bringing the threads together in the last 30 pages is a little too late. I'm finished with the book and I still can't tell you what it was about.
I know everyone in Nalor has their own belief system. Forest's people worship the Creation, which is nature. Old Man and his band of adventurers worship the Nameless One. The Krim 'Tiak worship Death. Princess Kimbra's father, the king, believes he IS a god. The picture of the author on the back cover shows him in what looks like a church pew, so I think maybe the Nameless One mentioned in here is the important thread; I'm assuming the Nameless One, or the All, was the equivalent to the God of Christianity.
"The All is a father, and humanity is His children. In the End humanity will have to answer for their actions and be accountable for what he has done. To avoid judgment, humanity first decided to make the Creation his god. But the Creation dies, and can be manipulated. Surely gods do not die nor can they be manipulated. Then mankind decided there was no god! No one to answer to! And he was alone, and afraid. So man made himself a god, and hoisted himself above everything."
Throughout the book, efforts were made to convince Forest that the Nameless One was the best god to follow. The problem is that the rest of the story was such a jumbled mess I'm not even 100% sure I'm right about THAT.
Upon the Shoulders of Vengeance simply has too many characters doing too many different things all at once and in only 200 pages, it doesn't all fit together as it should. There's no sense of time (weeks are mentioned as having passed in one scene, while another goes by in a couple of months, but I have no idea how much time passes from the beginning of the book to the end, nor from one scene to another), nor of space--for all I know the Coastal Mountains Forest wants to reach are a half mile from the courtyard where he's being whipped in the book's opening scene. I just don't know.
My guess is author James McCann wanted to write the big important adventure story, but without the bother of having it make sense to anyone but him. Note to author: next time, lose about half the cast, focus on ONE main thread and don't give the subplots equal screen time as the main plot; it draws attention away and makes the reader wonder just which plot is the main one.
From the beginning of the novel, I felt a huge sense of disorientation. Who was I rooting for? One group wants to help the Chosen One, the other wants to stop the Chosen One. Why? Since I couldn't tell you just what it is the Chosen One is supposed to do, I don't know which side is in the right. And considering how completely ineffective the actual Chosen One was in the end of it all, I don't think it really matters.
It's obvious from the beginning that James McCann isn't a writer with too many years of experience, and no real writing mentor; his prose is in need of an edit and for God's sake someone please create a word processing software that will tell you the difference between "then" and "than". I'm begging. (In all fairness, I did read an uncorrected proof; for all I know these mistakes were fixed in the final version) But I think at the heart of it, he's got what it takes. It's not his talent or drive that's lacking, but his education, he just doesn't seem to have the tools yet to write a novel as ambitious as I believe this one was meant to be. Or maybe I'm wrong and McCann has spent the past 20 years studying and honing his craft to a fine point. If that's the case, and this is the result, well . . .
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