Rojuun, by John H. Caroll
Willden Trilogy, Book 1
Originally Reviewed 2015/08/20 on Amazon.com
Starts well, but quickly falls apart.
Rojuun starts off promisingly. There is a brooding, dangerous atmosphere that hints of things to come. The initial main protagonist, Tathan, has a lot of worldly experience and a dark past. In an unusual touch of complexity, he shows signs of PTSD. His return to his family home had the feeling of a war veteran doing the same. Things turn much darker when raiders attack and slaughter his family. He proves himself impressively dangerous, but only he and his teenage cousin Liselle survive the battle.
Now here is the thing – I don’t need a story to be gritty or dark to find it good. I could handle what came next… but not both in the same book.
What do I mean? After some brief and perfunctory mourning, the tone gradually became more and more comical. Tathan, the character with 14 years of grim experience in travel and danger, started deferring to his completely world-inexperienced teenage cousin. She in turn was revealed to be an always-right, borderline Mary Sue teenage magic girl. Then things became even more dissonant with the arrival of two new characters; the prancing purple dragonish thing Vevin, and Sir Danth. The latter, despite having been on oath-bound watch in a treasure cave for sixteen hundred years, and likely undead, quickly turns into a ridiculous slapstick figure.
In tandem with the shift to a comic tone, the writing became more adolescent. Liselle, Vevin, and Danth proceeded to blunder about cluelessly, yet without consequences, while Tathan’s objections were very nearly always proven wrong. An initially impressive and mysterious protagonist declined to being the ineffectual straight-man in a cartoonish comedy routine. By about 1/3 of the way through, it felt like reading an entirely different novel.
It was really baffling – a switch from a fairly serious, almost grimdark tale to, well… a low-budget Xanth.
I liked Xanth, by the way, but I didn’t like this.