With The Sword of Solonus, Adam Matthews has taken on the herculean task of taking a traditional fantasy world (medieval-like) and traditional fantasy races (elves, humans, etc.) and re-imagining all of it – including each race’s philosophy. And I must say that other than a few issues, Mr. Matthews did a great job of giving this familiar fantasy reader something fresh to dig his teeth into.
The tale itself revolves around an array of conflicts in this fantasy world. Here humans, high elves, dark elves, and the arkalorians are each distinct societies with their own unique religions, culture, and agendas; a situation that natural breeds misunderstanding, revulsion, and – ultimately – conflict along multiple fronts: social, economic, religious, and military.
Indeed, the conflicts in The Sword of Solonus are numerous, from minor annoyances to sweeping persecutions to clashes over societal norms to ecological altering events. There are religious conflicts with the persecution of those of a different faith; civil war-type conflict between different sections of a kingdom; more than a hint of global destruction of the environment; and the antagonism toward different sexual roles in society, where the immortals have outgrown their need to reproduce.
There are lots of ideas explored in this novel that were quite interesting. My favorite being Mr. Matthews’ look at the issue of immortality and sexuality. Because ask yourself, if a race could live forever and had no need to reproduce for the race to survive, would they ultimately evolve into sexless creatures?
Quite possibly, given enough time. And here the author tackles that question, delving into it as well as the companion issue of how other mortal races might reject such androgynous beings as alien and unclean, wishing them destroyed.
With all that being said, I did have some issues with the novel that I’d feel remise if I didn’t point out.
First, this story was long and, unfortunately, read that way. Everything seemed a bit too wordy, perhaps in need of some careful editing to cut repetitive descriptions or prune away the unnecessary verbiage to allow the story itself to flow organically from page to page. And this was especially true of the dialogue, which, at times, was very stiff, formal, and unnatural in its leanings.
Second, the narrative covered over two decades worth of story, a great breadth of time and narrative to squeeze into one novel. And this was an issue as events and characters did not develop so much as they were just said to exist a certain way in order for the plot to proceed – an issue that might be rectified by splitting the story into a duology.
With my criticisms voiced, I’d like to commend Mr. Matthews for writing such an ambitious fantasy story that mixed in so many new ideas and intriguing philosophy into the traditional fantasy vehicle. All in all, I enjoyed reading it and would recommend other fantasy aficionados to give it a try.