Time of the Cold

Getting past that lousy excuse for a movie, over the last couple of months, I've been working my way through a fantasy series I hadn't read since high school. It's by Barbara Hambly, and the books were The Time of the Dark, The Walls of Air, and The Armies of Daylight. I recently found out there were two more books that I never read, but I think I'm going to skip them, as they're only tangentially related.

It was about a pre-technological society, where magic has some influence, where shapeless beings known as the Dark have risen up (after hiding for centuries) and are destroying human civilization.

Two people from our Earth, one a PhD history student, the other a slacker airbrush jockey, are pulled into that world and its struggles.

It was really interesting reading, particularly since it had been twenty years or so since my last perusal. I remembered from the beginning why the Dark arose, as that was one of the more interesting twists for a fantasy series. And I ended up remembering most of the major plot points, but many of them only a little bit before they occurred. Some of them I remembered what happened, but not why or when. As I said, it was an interesting experience.

I still ended up liking the series a great deal. I liked the portrayal of wizards, and Ingold is a great character (though at least a bit unrealistic; a sixty-odd year-old man is not going to be the best swordsman around, to say nothing of his inhuman endurance. And pulling his name straight out of The Silmarillion is a little odd). And the relationship between Alde and Rudy is fabulously well-handled. Really, I think that's the strongest part of the books.

That between Ingold and Gil is also well done, although taking the last step and having them become lovers seemed a bit much.

The handling of a catastrophic breakdown in society was also interesting, especially the characters who refused to admit that that was what had happened. And happily, a number of those people ended up dying because of that, which makes a lot of sense.

The biggest problems were realistic ones. It never really made sense that the Dark never came out into the light. As an intelligent race, they would seem to be able to endure at least some exposure in the light if that would allow them to kill their enemies. Their ability to steal minds also never really made much sense, nor their ignoring other forms of life. And there's the idea of how you fight something with a sword, if that something can rapidly change shape. But the biggest problem involved why they re-emerged into the world at all.

I thought the idea of having them be forced to come out because their food was failing due to the onset of an ice age was really cool. The problem, though, is that they hadn't been seen because they were deep underground. How cold does it get underground? It doesn't. Look into geothermal heating for a bit more information on it.

So they idea of climate change as plot driver kind of falls on its face. Which is unfortunate; as I said, I liked the idea quite a bit. It was certainly a good attempt to inject some realism into a fantasy novel.

But having said that, it's still a really good series, and I might read it again before too long.

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