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Having read O'Leary 's earlier novel, Door Number Three, I had been quite curious how he'd explore the Fantasy genre with his refreshing talent. After all, even though his previous work seemed to get lost in its own, poignant plotting, who could forget such snaps as, “your history is written by madmen who raped and wore gold” (Tor , IBSN 0312858728, c.1995, p.331)?
Fortunately, author O'Leary has fashioned a style perfectly suited for a genre sired by legends, myths, and bedtime stories. His knack for tangles unknots with stories told within merging storylines within a framing story, all engaging and filled with sparklers like, “boys make mistakes. If they are lucky, they make enough mistakes to become men” (Tor, IBSN 0312864027, c.1997, p.108). His world is set in a medieval playground of swords, horses, castles, and peasants, where the worldview based on creationist magic is remembered through the tellings of legendary occurances, until it is revived by a monomaniacal alchemist using a chaotic and rancorous force for absolute power and total domination. As synopsis, it sounds trite and very LOTR*, but, to paraphrase William Gaddis, Art is merely the recognition of original form, and the gift of The Gift is in whether or not you cuddle up to its storybook style of a Heroic Fantasy quester tale.
Unfortunately, I do not.
I'm too cynical, too hardboiled.
I am more apt to find my ethical and philosophical pilings in the Shakespearian obscenities of HBO's Deadwood. Or take my primal reading pleasures from other modern tales themed with forgotten-magic-revised-for-evil like Tim Lebbon's British Fantasy Award winner, Dusk.
The Gift's musings are tethered to the title, as every gift involves the waiver of something else, and by taking without being taken is the ultimate heresy. I suspect that the novel does not explore the latter part of my supplementary ponderance, because there seems to be an inherent pre-determination in the chosen induction of modern YA** fantasy balanced with the traditional fable readings of Andersen, Grimm, Aesop, and La Fontaine, and that's when I gave up on the substance because of the style.
But there are still lots of presents under this novel's tree.
They just don't have my name on them.
Dead at page 173 out of 286.
* Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy
** Young Adult