Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Guardians Of The Flame

Eason and I finished reading The Guardians of the Flame, a series of 10 books by Joel Rosenberg. I read most of the series as a kid, but I never finished it. It was one of my favorites, and when we started reading it at the bungalow back in the summer of 2014 I still loved it.

While the stories are clearly fantasy, the content is handled very realistically as the main characters are college students who participate in a fantasy role-playing game, and are magically transported to the world of the game by their gamemaster. It sounds like a silly premise, but it is handled very well. The books were quite mature, with a lot of profanity and dealing with issues like slavery and rape and disability and death, and I had some concerns about reading it with Eason, but in retrospect I do not think it was inappropriate.

The first five books were really great, but lose a lot of their appeal in the rest of the series as the focus shifts away from the main characters and onto what had previously been supporting characters. The beginning of the series reveals a long term plot which encompasses the reason the main characters are transported in the first place, and would seem to take decades to complete. However, the series progresses and the plot is never finalized, which was extremely disappointing.

There is a major tragedy in the fourth book that changes everything. It is the type of plot twist that is difficult to accept could actually be true, but as the next three books unfold it becomes undeniable. All that said, the final three books are still good, though their appeal hinges on the familiarity with the new main characters that had slowly been established throughout the earlier parts of the series.

When I first heard that author Joel Rosenberg died, I had feared that his death may have prevented him from finishing his series, but time got away from me and I only later realized that he dies in 2011 and Not Really the Prisoner of Zenda was released in 2003. I wish I new why he never returned to the very intricate plot he established, but I guess I will never know. As much as I enjoyed the series, it was very disappointing.

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