It’s already been a few weeks since I read these two books, so it’s high time I reviewed them. Sorry for taking so long.
Let’s start with The Shard, because that was the one I read first. This book definitely is your classic epic fantasy tale. It could hold its own next to Tolkien, and not only hold its own, but…no, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Extensive world building, detailed descriptions of landscape and people, even horses (who even have names.) The dwarves refuse to ride on horseback and are the best weaponsmiths, rivaled only by the elves, who are ethereal and beautiful and hide away in their woods not wanting to interfere in mortal matters. So far, familiar epic fantasy ground.
The dwarves were driven away from their home by a dragon, who now is said to lie sleeping there on a huge treasure amassed over the centuries. A fellowship composed of humans, dwarves, an elf and the one wizard left in the Known Lands sets out to retrieve an artefact from there and, if possible, kill the dragon. They find the old dwarven home overrun by goblins and trolls. There’s even a scene where the only thing between them and more or less certain safety is a narrow bridge across an underground chasm. Seriously, Ted! I half expected a balrog to appear. Luckily, this is where the Tolkien similarities ended.
I’m not telling you this to put you off the book – quite the opposite, in fact. Because, you see, just as I was about to yell, ‘One more Tolkien reference and I quit!’ the oddest thing happened. I found myself completely engrossed. Ted Cross managed to take all those rather familiar details, and completely make them his own. And you can’t help rooting for the characters, especially the Lord of Welby, Midas, a minor noble who isn’t only chivalrous and a hero, but also a complex person with fears and faults he openly admits. And Orcbait, of course. How could anyone not like a character named Orcbait?
The ending I found rather predictable, but nevertheless beautifully executed. Needless to say, I finished the book and instantly delved into Lord Fish, a collection of short stories set in the same world. Lord Fish is no one else but our Lord of Welby, and I was very happy to learn a bit about his past and how he came to be the man he is. Funny and entertaining, the stories hint at just how complex the author’s world is. There was only one story I didn’t care too much about, as it was simply an alternative version of one of the storylines from The Shard. Anyway, this world as Ted Cross created it has an almost unlimited potential. I can easily imagine him telling us the tales of his world for the rest of his life, and I’ll gladly listen.