Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Empire Of The Saviours Empire Of The Saviours
by A. J. Dalton

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

I have to admit that I found this book easy to start – but it was not so easy to finish. There were a number of problems that gradually became more and more annoying. First, it became apparent that contrary to expectation, this was not a stand-alone fantasy, but the first of a series. Note to publishers… please put this kind of thing on the cover! Second was the author’s peculiar use of certain words, "peculiar" being one of them, and "geas" another. A "geas" is a mystical obligation, a kind of curse or doom, from the Irish "geis". It has nothing whatsoever to do with "Gaea", the Greek goddess of the Earth, so why does Dalton insist on calling his version of "Gaea" the "Geas"? More aggravating still was the New Ageist subtext. The idea of "old gods = good", "new religion = bad" is not only historically simplistic, it has been done way too often and getting so far past old, it’s stale.

The plot was simple enough, too. A young boy, Jillan, discovers he has powerful magic by accidentally killing a bully, gathers a motley bunch of off-siders and ends up defeating great evil, in the form of the local representative of the "Saviours", the grossly nasty and vampiric "Saint" Azual. In the process Jillan somehow goes from being a boy to a teen spouting wisdom far beyond his years. Not what I call credible character development.

According to Dalton’s website, he is endeavouring to invent a "new" sub-genre he calls "metaphysical fantasy". It’s apparent that he cares little for the history of the fantasy genre, which was born out of a desire to tell stories that could not be told in any other way, and is inherently metaphysical. There is absolutely nothing new about dialectic in fantasy – it’s there in Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams. But the story should be paramount, the philosophising secondary. Other reviews suggest that some people actually like their fantasy burdened with a heavy dose of quasi-religious pontification – but believe you me, I don’t.

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