Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lord Valentine's Castle (Lord Valentine #1) by Robert Silverberg

Title:Lord Valentine's Castle (Lord Valentine #1)
Author: Robert Silverberg
Original Publication Date: 1980
Pages: 506

"Conquest over self was the finest of victories."(467)

It pains me that this book is languishing in undeserved obscurity. 

Lord Valentine's Castle follows the journey of Valentine, devoid of any semblance of identity and perhaps irretrievably deprived of indescribably defining memories, living a wanderer’s life, joining a band of jugglers, learning the trade in the only way it was meant to be learned, by heart and soul, and comes to the realization that he has fallen from the highest possible state of grace, comes to the inevitable understanding that he must journey to reclaim what he has lost, not for himself, but for the safety and order of Majipoor.

This is a journey of one man, his quest to define himself, as much as it is a voyage through the world of Majipoor. And it is splendid.

It is splendid because Silverberg is unlike most fantasy writers. This book is not filled with fantasy tropes and cliché plot devices. No. There are no dwarves, elves and well-defined magical schemes, no epic wars, but there are dragons! Like Ursula Le Guin, in the A Wizard of Earthsea, the struggle is much more personal, and to expect a diluted brilliance in this work is but a folly one must dispense with.  As I have written in my review on the first book of the Earthsea Cycle which is suitably in consonance with my views on this book,“what is most fascinating in this unique work of fantasy is how personal and particular the main struggle is and yet it carries a worldly importance to the book. The perpetuation of the grand narratives of good against evil, or of the prosaic if not routinary overblown dilemmas of kings and men have endeavored to situate if not relegate this grand personal struggle everybody must go through in the background as mere subplots at the best and at worst as plot devices, never really brought in the forefront.” And I like this kind of books, not only because of the inherent mastery with which it is delivered but it reflects

Silverberg’s vehemence and audacity at writing out of the banalities in fantasy writing. This he achieved by masterfully incorporating a bit of sci-fi background in this world and highlighting the power of dreams to list a few, and of course envisioning our lovely charismatic engaging Valentine to be black.I revel in the fact that the protagonist in this was envisioned to have had dark skin. For it is not so much as the color of the skin that talks but of the profound meaning and effect it carries concerning minute details of vital necessity not only in the fantasy genre but of printed work generally… for most fantasy plots are patterned if not derived from the middle ages of conquest where the dichotomy of the white and black or of the east-west conflict is fundamentally translated to good and bad respectively and the stratification of the social class is at its height..’’ Authors like this must be read!

Silverberg’s world building is exceptionally extensive and my imagination was left in no less a euphoric state given the way he wrote. His was so detailed, so wonderful, so mesmerizing. Not only were the cities strangely unique and uncompromisingly beautiful, they were real, they were real in the manner that Silverberg wanted them to be, as if you were there, standing before the gates of the city, drunkenly dazzling at the beauty of this alien world. Just as a painter masterfully but with adamant care puts life into the canvass with those slow adroit masterful strokes of genius, so does Silverberg conjures Majipoor to life with his phrases, sentences and paragraphs. And this world building in effect makes Valentine’s journey more empathic, and I would easily pledge my loyalty to this unprecedentedly deposed Coronal, even though most of his travels are uneventful compared to most fantasy books, I will choose to be beside this man and enter Majipoor once again.

This book is part of my LOCUS AWARDS reading list.
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