There are a pantheon of gods who move through space and time looking for interesting thing to amuse and occupy themselves. These Elder Gods find a pristine and perfect planet and hatch a plan to provide a longer term distraction than usual. The four Elder Gods make four copies of themselves to experience life in the land of Dhrall. These avatars, called the Younger Gods, retain most of the original gods’ powers but are powered by sunlight. Dahlaine and Veltan live in the north and south, while Zelana and Aracia take east and west respectively. The land develops and evolves well and the Younger Gods enjoy shaping and directing the lives of the plants and animals there.
Darkness comes into the land when the insectile creature called Vlagh evolves and has a vast hive existence. She has the ability to factor new characteristics and abilities into each generation of new offspring. If a new weapon is used against one of her children, she has the ability to factor in this knowledge in further generations. She is cunning and clever and wants to be the sole living creature in the land.
Written into the creation of the Younger Gods is the inability to harm living things. This means that to counteract the Vlagh’s threat, human agents must be employed.
The Younger Gods is the fourth and final book in ‘The Dreamers’ series. It details how the mismatched group of soldiers recruited by the Younger Gods work together to overcome the massed armies of the Vlagh. Along the way, the armies must fight new versions of the Vlagh’s children who are better able to fight and survive. Included in these ranks are creatures able to pass for human and infiltrate the human forces. These spies work as a fifth column sowing discord and disinformation in an attempt to weaken the resolve of the humans.
David Eddings was a powerhouse in fantasy writing. ‘The Belgariad’ and ‘Malloreon’ series were hugely influential. Even a casual fantasy reader will have heard of this author. This book has similar lyrical prose and dramatic sweeping story but it is not quite in the same league. The characters have a half-formed feel at times. The language and discussions feel quick and sketchy. We don’t get a sense of their inner worlds or thoughts.
It could be argued that a huge series with a large cast of characters cannot spend too many lines on exposition but contrast the works of Tolkien and George RR Martin who can sketch a world of back story in a few lines. It is harsh perhaps but there is a dated feel to the writing style here. It feels older than its eight years. Perhaps it is harking back to a golden age of fantasy but it seems slightly lost in the 21st century. The good characters are all good and the bad ones are all bad. There is no feeling of moral ambiguity or wonder at which way a character’s actions will go.
Confession time: I have not read the first three books. Given that the final book in the series should contain all of the drama and adventure of the conclusion of the earlier book’s events I may be doing a disservice to ‘The Younger Gods’.
With this in mind, any criticism must be slightly tempered. I have no doubt that hard core Eddings’ fans will love this series. Fans of the fantasy genre will be impressed with the lyrical prose and sweeping scope of the tale. This is not the book to win new fans over to the genre. Earlier Eddings’ work would do a much better job of grabbing the imagination of a new reader.
(pub: HarperCollins. 429 page hardback. Price: £18.99 (UK). ISBN: 0-00-715767-3)