Last month I read Crown of Vengeance, the first novel in Stephen Zimmer's epic fantasy series The Fires of Eden. Publisher Seventh Star Press was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the second volume, Dream of Legends as well. I wasn't sure how many parts there would be in this series when I wrote the review of the first book but the publisher has informed me in the mean time that there will be seven Fires of Eden books. I felt that the first volume did have a certain appeal to fans of the epic fantasy sub genre but that the execution left something to be desired. Dream of Legends better in some ways but much worse in others. Ultimately, I felt it was a seven hundred page book with only two hundred pages worth of story in it.
Dream of Legends picks up right the story where Crown of Vengeance ends. In the Five Realms the Unifier has struck a first blow against the tribes. It quickly becomes apparent that the tribes cannot hope to hold their territory against the Unifier's onslaught. The terrain is suited to the stubborn defence the tribes put up but the number of enemy soldiers is just overwhelming. They need held and hope to find it with the Midragardians. An enemy of the Unifier as of yet out of reach of his armies. In the mean time, Saxany is about the be involved in a battle that will decide the fate of the nation. The Unifier's armies are approaching the Saxans' chosen field of battle. Their strength is overwhelming but the Saxans are not going to give up without a fight. One of the largest armies ever fielded by the Saxans awaits them, prepared to defend their homeland until the last man falls. Despite he Saxan courage, their situation looks hopeless. Like the Five Realms, the Saxans will need aid to survive the coming storm.
One of the things I disliked about Crown of Vengeance is that the Saxan story line lacked a proper climax. Zimmer builds up to a big battle that doesn't materialize at the end of the book. It does in the sequel though. In fact, a large part of the second half of the novel is dedicated to it. The fact that the battle isn't joined until the second part of the novel illustrates the major weakness of this novel. Zimmer just takes too long to get to the point. The author shows us several Saxan characters getting ready for battle, thinking how they'd rather be at home drinking good ale and how many of them are likely never to go home again. Not unusual thought on the eve of a battle but even if Zimmer hadn't expressed this sentiment in the first book already, we don't need to be told several times and certainly not in the verbose style Zimmer employs.
Another issue with Crown of Vengeance was that is introduced so many point of view characters that most of them didn't get enough time to develop. In Dream of Legends a few new characters are introduced but on the whole it is much more focussed on a smaller number of characters, enabling Zimmer to add some depth to them. Interesting about his choice of point of view is that most of the characters transported from our world to Ave, receive little or no attention. It's the natives that steal the show in this volume, which again makes me wonder if we really needed nine characters carried over from our world to tell this story.
One of the few characters from our world who does get some time in the spotlight is Lee. He's developing into something of a champion for the libertarian ideal. There's a fine rant in one of his sections where he details how the state is taxing his marginally profitable Chinese restaurant too much to spend it frivolously. It's the main reason why he gets along with the rather moody forest dweller Gunther. A man who is the ideal of self-reliance, a man who just wants to be left alone (but unfortunately the world won't let him be). Both books include quotes of Ayn Rand so this isn't entirely surprising. I'm not a great fan of this line of reasoning, it's one of the reasons I can't stand Terry Goodkind's novels. Fortunately Zimmer knows better than to bludgeon his readers with it.
While Zimmer improves in some areas, most notably the tighter focus on a more limited group of characters, the novel suffers enormously from overly detailed descriptions and long and repetitive interior monologues. It simply stifles the progress of the plot to the point where large sections of the book stall completely. I'm used to reading big books and consider myself a fairly patient reader (I rarely put a book down once I start reading it) but the temptation to skim sections of this novel rather than fully read them, was just overwhelming. If anything, this novel shows that epic fantasy is about more than getting a big word count. After reading the first two books in this series I'm afraid the only possible conclusion is that this series is not for me.
Title: Dream of Legends
Author: Stephen Zimmer
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
First published: 2010