The Redemption of Althalus is a 792 page long book. The front cover boasts a yellow stripe reading “#1 international bestseller.”
It’s the stripe that throws me off. I think that really, the reason I kept reading and reading is because of that stripe. I found myself thinking there must be a reason why it’s “#1 International Bestseller.” They don’t just give those stripes away… There must be a reason that I haven’t got to yet in the book – some compelling character, a diabolical plot twist, a creative spark of some kind…
Having read the book from cover to cover – skipping only the very very most tedious parts – I remain baffled by this book’s self-proclaimed bestsellerness. Perhaps the phrase “Redemption of Althalus” means “Redeemable for Sensual Swedish Back Massage” in German. Or Switzerland.
This was a rotten, rotten book.
David and Leigh Eddings must be writers of some skill, at least, having produced dozens of volumes in the fantasy genre; and the technical aspects of writing here wasn’t particularly flawed or choppy or anything. What we do find in the book is characters who are flat, plots absolutely stuffed with logical flaws and holes so big you could throw a Rowling book through them, Problems that solve themselves, re tellings of the same facts over and over again, unnecessary narration, and the list goes on.
I think it was the plot holes that really bugged me the most. For instance, Althalus receives some magical training at the hands of a caring god. It takes over 2000 years. Then one day they notice that the enemy is “making his move.” The god character is somewhat depressed at this, saying that she wished they had another 2000 years to finish Althalus’s training. She then points out a few days later that the building they were in the whole time has the ability to slow or stop time relative to the outside world – no questions asked. So the whole time they were completely capable of doing another 2000 years of training in an eyeblink. Did they? No. Why? Only the Eddingses know and they’re too busy rolling around on their pile of Swedish Kronas to tell us.
The “house” that the main character was trained in allowed for time travel and instantaneous transportation to any location. The authors apparently had no idea what they were doing mixing in these sci-fi applications into a fantasy operating system, because they utterly disregarded their own rules. This caused so many plot holes in the book that I could barely stand it. I assume that somehow this book never even came into contact with an editor’s hands before printing because any editor I can imagine would have something like this to say:
“I have read your book, dear Eddings family, and I am sad to report that it sucketh the mighty sucksuck. In all my many years of fending off Star Wars fan fiction, roleplayers’ transcripts of their own games, and Tolkien rewrites I have never read something so obviously flawed and flavorless. In fact, your book was so bad that I’m enclosing a photograph of myself, though it steal my very soul, to indicate my incredulity and displeasure. I felt it so important to emphasize your need to re-write this book that I have donned my monocle at the conclusion of reading this book and I shant remove it till Tim Powers next pushes pen across sheepskin. Now examine carefully my eyebrows harumphing at you most egregiously. ”
Or at least, that’s what I would do if I had eyebrows like that and was an editor.j
2500 years after entering the house for his training, Althalus emerges to find the world relatively unchanged. People use steel swords instead of bronze, and cities are bigger. The rest is still the same – kingdoms are still in the same place ruling the same people, Althalus’s worldly knowledge that got him around so easily in ancient times seems to be just as current 2.5 millenia later. Cause we all know that if there’s one thing that stands the test of time, it’s the steadiness of human culture and politics.
It made me mad, not only because they were ignoring the obvious – that everything changes in the course of millenia – but also because they were giving up a great opportunity to enrich the story. It could have been so much more fulfilling and captivating if we were discovering Althalus’s new world along with him while he was solving the problem of the evil sorcerer. Stupid move, Eddingses.
Every time Althalus and his band want to accomplish something, they do. It’s so remarkably easy for them that I felt certain there had to be a gimmick – a big surprise where the enemy says something like “Yeah, we knew you wanted us to do that so we did it only to get you into our clutches,” or something. But no. Basically they wander around from place to place asking for whatever they want from the locals, and then getting it from them. They find spies, but kill them easily. They come across raging hordes, but dispatch them with ease. Emotional problems? Just a 3 paragraph chat with Althalus will cure your ills! Even the climactic battle with the evil sorcerer – right hand of the devil himself – contained no magic, no intrigue, no plot twists, or even any climactic battle. Althalus just knew what to do, did it, and it was done. The end. Just like every other “problem” in the book. The characters never fail, never struggle, never stress, and never reveal flaws that aren’t instantly fixed by a little conversation. (That style eerily reminded me of a fan-fiction I wrote when 16 years old – It was meant to be a Star Wars story peopled by characters from my friends’ role-playing sessions and written in the style of a detective novel. It was horrible. Read it at your leisure.)
In fact, there are only 2 characters in this book: Hero unit and Enemy unit. Hero units 1 through 58 all talk and act exactly the same – confident, cocky, flawlessly good and endlessly competent. Enemy units 1 through 560,000 all talk and (surprised?) act exactly the same – angry, stupid, and powerless.
Have I spent enough time ripping on this book? ‘Cause I could go on.
The Redemption of Althalus did have one or two redeeming (ha! Get it? Redeeming?) qualities, however. Here is the exhaustive list:
1. The first part of the book, up till the first major plot hole, is really quite good. A bronze age thief down on his luck, coming up against the problems of the big city and failing badly, eerie creatures in the woods and people far more powerful than him hiring him for covert operations… fun stuff, really. Just stop reading at the point where they have to leave the house and imagine they went on to fight tremendous magical, intellectual, and physical battles that changed the course of history and spurred some amount of character development. You’ll like it better that way.
2. I would happily recommend this book to any 13 year old. Why? Because they will probably not notice the flaws and instead read speedily through this simplistic tome – leaving the youngster feeling like a champ for conquering an 800 page brute while his or her friends struggle with the meager offerings of Eoin Colfer – mere 200 page featherweights. (And the font is really big in those books, too. Hardly a worthy comparison to this very “grown-up” book.)
Given those two positives, I would rate this book as a -3 on a scale of -5 to 5, unless you are, in fact, 13 years old in which case the Redemption of Althalus merits a 1.3.