Monday, May 5, 2008

Asulon 2: The Good Stuff

So why does William McGrath's Asulon succeed? There are a number of reasons; I'll touch on a few.

Myth. It turns out that McGrath was right about the compatibility of biblical prophecy and myth. It shouldn't be a surprise: in the Old Testament especially, images are sometimes drawn from pagan myths. And as the Chronicles of Narnia show, mythology on a fairy-tale level can not only enrich a fantasy but ease up the expectations. In Asulon, for example, there's a running gag of sorts about an angel turned mortal siring children with angelic blood in their veins. Ordinarily I'd ding McGrath for that, but since he uses much the same concept to set up dwarves, unicorns, etc., I accept it as mythology and let it pass. If he had gone for a realistic, modern setting, I would've nailed him.

Character Balance. I see a lot of plot/character problems. On the one hand, sometimes a character does something for no apparent reason except that the author says so. On the other hand, sometimes a character is so cliché-ridden that you can predict his every move. The characters in Asulon, however, are strongly typed without becoming stereotypes. You can predict their general responses, but not very precisely. With a few characters on stage at any given moment, that produces reasonable surprises rather than rabbits out of a hat.

Also, the balance between Simon the priest and Moor the warrior works well. Moor is not a Christian, so while he is physically very competent and has considerable cunning, he has no spiritual insight. He goes by appearances, but he isn't stupid. Simon, meanwhile, is spiritually adept. He's a good fighter as well, but not at Moor's level. Together they provide humanistic and spiritual depths that make the story far more interesting. Most authors would have had one or the other, or at least would have emphasized one over the other.

Authority. Never let your readers suspect you don't know what you're talking about. Asulon is awash with combat-related notes, and McGrath does handle action scenes better than most. He is generally informative without being pedantic, which helps his credibility and readability.

He does get "preachy" on occasion, but that's not a major problem for me. In fact, tomorrow I'll deal with that and some other complaints I suspect will be leveled at Asulon and why they're bogus.

Participating Blog links:
The Christian Fiction Review Blog
A Frank Review
Susan Kirkland
Melissa Meeks @ Bibliophile's Retreat
Geralyn Beauchamp @ The Time Mistress
Cathi Hassan @ Cathi's Chatter
Caprice Hokstad @ Queen of Convolution

1 comment:

cathikin said...

I also like the balance between Simon and Moor. I am very curious to read how their characters develop in the next book and the third one.
You're right in saying that Bill gets a bit 'preachy' at times, but it is in keeping with his characters and the events of the moment

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