Bret M. Funk, |
Boundary's Fall #2:
Sword of Honor
This is book two of Bret M. Funk's fantasy series, Boundary's Fall. It's a continuation rather than a stand-alone novel, and interested readers would be better off starting with book one, Path of Glory. (See Laurie Thayer's dead-on review for Rambles.)
Boundary's Fall thus far has much in common with other long fantasy stories -- swords and sorcery, castles, likable heroes, unusual beings and a titanic conflict between good and evil. When book one opens the Darklord Lorthas and most of his followers are imprisoned behind a vast Boundary raised hundreds of years earlier by the great Mage Aemon and his allies. The book describes the early life of Jeran Odara as he grows up in this time of peace with the Darklord contained. Young Jeran forms a lasting friendship with Dahr, a sometimes fierce member of the race of huge men known as Garun'ah. The two are dispatched to warn King Mathis of trouble Lorthas is fomenting in spite of the Boundary. When Mathis hears their warning he decides the alliances that once won a victory over Lorthas must be renewed. He sends Jeran and Dahr with his son Prince Martyn on a diplomatic mission to mend broken relations with the nation of elves. (Note that Laurie Thayer's review copy of Path of Glory contained many editing errors. My copy from Amazon.com had corrected most of those and there were few errors in my review copy of the second book.)
Sword of Honor opens as the three heroes pursue their mission. The would-be diplomats struggle to adjust to a new environment and point-of-view, and some of the elven nobles are more sympathetic to the Darklord's objectives than to those of the human delegation. Funk shows that different races mistrust each other even when a common enemy threatens. Subplots include the machinations of millennia-old Magi and romance for each of the young heroes -- Jeran, Dahr and Martyn.
Funk does a better job of character development than many fantasy writers. His heroes are less than perfect and his villains have plausible motivations. He also brings the elves' unusual forest environment to life but, as in the first book, the plot develops slowly as he concentrates on adding depth to the story's many human and non-human characters. Sword of Honor ends with a well-done action scene when humans and elves battle followers of Lorthas who are attempting to conquer land outside the Boundary. Major surprises and a cliff-hanger ending will drag many readers into a future installment.
Although the plot holds interest and it's easy to root for Jeran and his friends, Funk is a young author with some of the flaws of the inexperienced. The emotional reactions of characters at times reminded me of the overacting of silent-film stars. Out-of-place or overdone laughter is especially frequent. In addition I sometimes felt that routine descriptions of settings and characters were impeding plot development.
So Funk isn't yet strong competition for better-known fantasy authors such as George R.R. Martin, but he does show promise, and I will be among those waiting to find out more about the fate of Jeran and his friends in the next book in the series.