Regardless of the number of fantasy books I've read over the years, I'm always thrilled to discover a new talented writer. 2006 brought us a slew of gifted authors such as Scott Lynch, Naomi Novik, Hal Duncan, Brian Ruckley and Joe Abercrombie. Earlier this year, we were introduced to Patrick Rothfuss, whose The Name of the Wind remains a sure candidate for fantasy debut of 2007. Hence, when you discover that both Tor Books and Pan MacMillan have high hopes for David Bilsborough's The Wanderer's Tale, you can't help but be eager to read it.
Still, even though I was excited to read this one, it was quite a struggle for me to reach the last page. And I so wanted to like this novel.
An odd blend of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Sword of Shannara, and various Forgotten Realms books from the late 80s, Bilsborough's The Wanderer's Tale is YA through and through. Pitched to the Paolini crowd, I sincerely believe that this debut has the potential to be a bestseller. But pitched to well-read fans and aficionados of the genre, this book falls short on basically every level.
The most impressive facet of The Wanderer's Tale remains the worldbuilding. Bilsborough's universe resounds with depth. The author's eye for details creates an arresting imagery. And yet, the heavy-handed prose filled with descriptions of all sorts will soon grate on the nerves of even the most patient of readers.
To say that this novel is overwritten would be the understatement of the year. Cutting 25% to 30% of it would get rid of a good chunk of the bloated prose and speed up the pace which leaves a lot to be desired. There seems to be at least one adverb per sentence -- I kid you not!
Sadly, the characters are rather clichéd -- every last one of them. I would be hard-pressed to find another such unappealing cast. There isn't one three-dimensional character in the bunch. For the most part, they are little more than cardboard cut-outs.
The dialogues are juvenile throughout The Wanderer's Tale, which is another reason why I believe it should have been aimed at a younger crowd. To say nothing of the puerile humor contained within the pages of this novel. Unless, of course, you have a thing for someone farting the national anthem. . .
Although the quest remains the biggest cliché associated with the fantasy genre, David Bilsborough shows a fertile imagination. But the execution falls flat, irrevocably so. And with such a stumbling and occasionally clunky narrative, the rhythm is sluggish throughout, with vast portions of chapters in which nothing occurs.
Overwritten, overlong, overhyped. . .
The final verdict: 5/10