Monday, May 25, 2009

Review: The House of the Stag


The House of the Stag by Kage Baker knocked me out with its one two combination of humor and world building. Previous to finding this book on the shelves of my local library it wasn’t just below my radar it wasn’t even a blip. As I scanned the titles of the novels in hopes of finding Baker’s Gardens of Iden the title The House of the Stag jumped out at me. So I took it down off the shelf and read the blurb:

It begins with a tragedy. Before the Riders came to their remote valley, the Yendri led a tranquil pastoral life. When the Riders conquered and enslaved them, just a few escaped to the forests. Only one of them possessed the necessary rage to fight back: Gard the foundling, half-demon, began a one man guerilla war against the riders. But his struggle ended in the loss of the family he loved and condemnation from his own people.

I was sold. Sitting down in my lazy boy recliner and cracking the cover I didn’t quite know what to expect and sometimes it’s the unexpected that turns out to be just what I was looking for.

From the beginning the story seems to draw influence from of all books; The Bible. In the beginning the Yendri live in a Garden of Eden environment content to live out their days in harmony with nature. Unfortunately this harmony is shattered when the Riders appear and enslave the Yendri and ravish the land

Other similarities exist as well. Cain and Abel is revisited in the form of Gard and his brother Ranwyr, The Beloved in a Moses type role, Lendreth in the role of Joshua and even a foretold savior that will arrive to deliver the Yendri from their enslavement.

Along with the biblical motifs Baker also mixes in quite a bit of primitive mythology and in turn creates a unique mythos for her world. The world Baker creates will look vaguely familiar; like someone you went to high school with who has had some work done. Baker offers the fantasy genre a face lift with numerous fresh ideas.

The concept of The Mountain in the second section of the book is wholly unique to any fantasy I’ve read. Also the way she handles the race of demons is exceptional and completely different than any demons I’ve ever come across. (in the pages of a book.)

Along with these fresh ideas Baker infuses the story with humor throughout. She takes more than a few shots at the Fantasy Genre in particular. You can’t help but smile when you see the Theatre company perform variations of The Great Theme time after time. Each play is just like the one before in much the same way many Epic Fantasies are derivative of each other.

With this humor and a number of fresh ideas The House of the Stag was an unexpected surprise for me and one that I hope many others will take the time to search out along with its predecessor The Anvil of the World.

The House of the Stag is truly a unique book and to me feels like several different novellas collected into one book and that’s not a knock on it at all. Each section of the book has its own “feel” which makes for a very pleasurable reading experience.

90/100

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