The North Beyond Part 3: Haldur by P.M. Scrayfield (book review).

February 26, 2021 | By | Reply More

It is not often that all the books in a trilogy or, in this case, a tetralogy are published simultaneously. By issuing books at suitable intervals it gives the author time to reflect and see if any problems arose in the earlier volume and look for ways to correct them. Simultaneous publication doesn’t allow this kind of leeway.

Some areas where thought would have been useful concerns the layout. Anyone opening this book for the first time would have been put off by the first page being an entire paragraph running onto the second. Very long paragraphs and the book is riddled with them are disconcerting.

This book is the third part of a tetralogy. Part one was the life story of Numinantoro ending with and the birth of her son and her death. Part two covers the growing up of this child and the opportunities he has of learning life skills. This boy is called Maesrhon by the man the population consider his father, though his real father is probably one of the Starborn. At the end of this volume, he sets out on a quest.

The country of Caradward is greedy or at least the rulers are and their neighbour, Gwent y’m Aryframan, is portrayed as agrarian and bucolic. The people are opposites in temperament and, when the cultures are in balance, they exist in harmony. With the death of the Starborn, a darkness has settled over Caradward and when they move to take over their neighbour, the darkness follows them. Maesrhon’s quest is to find the Starborn and get the darkness lifted.

‘Part 3: Haldur’ covers a much shorter period of time and revolves around Maesrhon, who now assumes the name his mother gave him, Artorynas. He has spent three years wandering and finally arrived at the Nine Dales. There he meets Haldur, who is the heir apparent to the current chieftain, and they become firm friends. While after a year and a half, Artorynas travels on north following his quest, Haldur is sent to his father to Caradward to assess the situation there.

The community of the Nine Dales is nice and this is the problem. Everyone gets on with everyone else. Disagreements are minor and easily smoothed over. There is never any sense that the characters are in jeopardy. For any novel, not just fantasy, obstacles need to be thrown in the path of the principals that need skill and ingenuity to resolve, solve or bypass. There are plenty of opportunities but they are never taken.

Interesting things, like the contents of the stories the loremaster tells that have so much significance to the community are skated over. A curiosity is that in this book, women are shadowy figures, cyphers. With the intense friendship between Artorynas and Haldur, it might be expected that it would develop into something more. Unfortunately, it never does. The unwieldiness of the names continues in this book.

Although this is fantasy and the weapons of choice are swords and bows, there is little in the way of magic other than the artefact Artorynas is seeking from the Starborn. There are very slight hints that this might be our Earth in a far future when our civilisation has been destroyed by a nuclear war. If so, there needs to be more relics than are currently apparent. Perhaps they will appear in ‘Part 4: Artorynas’ and the approach to events will be less laid back.

Pauline Morgan

February 2021

(pub: Pen Press Publication, Brighton, UK, 2016. 332 page paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78003-491-1)

check out websites: www.penpress.net and https://thenorthbeyond.co.uk

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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