Look, this book is like eating a rhubarb pie made by your friend, where you weren't expecting rhubarb pie (or maybe you did because you read the introduction), and you're surprised and kind of pissed because you thought only your grandmother could make rhubarb pie, and you always brag about how your grandmother invented rhubarb pie, before that people tried to eat the leaves and kept dying, but here's this jerk making a rhubarb pie, and the worst part is it's actually fairly tasty. You might think the pie-author could have gone into a lot more detail, and made a richer and fuller story, with perhaps a bit less comically over-done heroic posing and characters talking as though they knew they were being recorded, but it was fun to eat and you might eat it again but definitely not tell your family. I wished the books were longer so he could have gone into more detail (thus further defining the areas in which he expanded and moved away from Tolkien), but the depth with which he wrote the story left me interested in reading more.
First off, I don't have much to add to all the other negatives - this is likely the worst book of any kind that I've ever read. The very beginning, with the "young buccan Warrows" (McKiernan's strength sure isn't in his naming) practicing their archery, is just about the only scene that doesn't seem like a LOTR swipe. He uses the passive voice an awful lot and throws in archaisms and umlauts and accents recklessly, I guess to make it feel "old" and "epic", but he only succeeds in making himself look illiterate and pretentious. This choice and several other equally mysterious ones like using an apostrophe before non-abbreviated words ('Day) help contribute to the general sense that the guy never wrote so much as a letter between college and the writing of this book - and his editors didn't do him any favors. This is a book almost wholly without subtext, except maybe a very cynical one: how badly can a book be written, and how obvious can it's debt to LOTR be, and yet still be published - and even cherished by fantasy fans with little taste or experience.
This is one of my all time favorite Fantasy trilogies.
There is also an unconfirmed story about McKiernan asking the Tolkien estate if he could write sequels/pastiches of The Lord of the RIngs. So, anyway, it goes without saying that this series is A LOT like The Lord of the Rings, but maybe not in the ways you might expect. There are a lot of differences, too, and many that I kind of like, such as evil vampire armies and the fact that the Warrows (Hobbits) actually kick ass and have elf-like archery skills.
I loved this series. He didn't go into the characters as much (Tolkien had an entire appendix dedicated to Ent History!) but they were all inspiring nevertheless. I'd read it again and again because I LOVE reading, and this is a good book to read.
McKiernan's novels, on the other hand, are significantly less focused on battles. Overall, I found this series to be extremely enjoyable.
Having admitted this, I guess he felt free to really, REALLY rip off Tolkien.
Those who actually take the time to learn some of the history behind the book know that it was originally written to be a sequel to the LOTR trilogy, but the green light for publication was never given by Tolkien's family. The book was thus published after some edits to make it "its own story." 2) This is epic fantasy. For most of the book's middle section, it felt as though more attention was given to developing the relationship between Tuck and Laurelin than to the impending doom surrouding the whole land. The pacing gets even worse following the primary characters' desperate attempt to escape the fallen castle, when the reader is forced to endure endless pages of description about the dark cloud that has fallen over the land (a phenomenon that gets a great deal of description throughout the book) and empty dialogue between Tuck and Galen. A large chunk of the book's end is just two characters and a horse riding through deserted lands talking to each other about things we've been given no reason to care about. The story follows Tuck and is mostly told from his perspective, with an occasional allusion to another character's thoughts or perceptions. Tuck's physical abilities and martial prowess are sufficiently established so that within the context of the story, they are believable. Tuck is provided a stock romantic interest whom the reader meets briefly at the very beginning of the book. I won't be surprised in the least if it turns out that part of the rivarly has to do with this female Warrow we know nothing about.) Tuck's relationship with Laurelin is so forced and shallow that his emotional expressions over the princess are laughable. His reasons for joining Galen in the prince's quest to find Laurelin hold no emotional merit, since there is nothing presented in the body of the story to support them. Danner essentially comes across as a three-foot emo, and has few if any redeeming qualities, other than being Tuck's best friend and a member of the author's preferred species (re: Warrows). Nearly every time Laurelin speaks, she carries on about her betrothed, to the point where I'm sure if the characters were talking about paint drying, she'd find a way to fit Galen into the conversation. Basically, she's a representation of perfect good and is meant to provide emotional imperative to the actions of the book's male characters. My guess is that Galen is based on Aragon, given the former's military prowess and "leader's bearing." Three fourths of the book are devoted to talking about the guy, but we don't meet him until the end. And provided that this is a fantasy story, I also cannot fault the author for using this technique to only define the character's military abilities and nothing more. To put this into context, we have the successor to the throne abandoning his people to go on a wild chase in the midst of an apocalyptic invasion, pursuing an unknown enemy force, with paper thin evidence that said force is holding Laurelin and Igon hostage. I own all three (compiled into a single book, as it was originally intended to be) and have committed myself to reading the entire story. I've little reason to believe that my opinion of the story will change from now to the end, but I may find myself surprised. This is particularly true when considering that the characters' development may improve as the story unfolds, since this book is truly only the beginning as far as the three-act format is concerned.
I remember having a difficult time getting through the trilogy, perhaps that I didnt finish it. Reading this again, the best word I can think of to describe McKiernans writing is tedious. He describes not only a castle but what its sitting on, all the people in the city around it, who built it, their favorite books, color, food, what was on the radio at the time, who was big in sports, etc. Everyone in this book does it and I did it, too, about 3,632 times while hacking my way through the dense underbrush that is McKiernans writing. I think hes trying to be quaint or authentic but it just comes off highfalutin and its difficult to stomach, let alone read. I likes me some repetition in music. Actually, I like a lot of repetition in music. Sometimes McKiernan's repetition comes off like a childrens author repeating a moral lesson. If this book were less than a third the length and didnt have the occasional adult theme, Id think it was written for unimaginative eight year olds. Its like he took Lord Of The Rings, wrote up an outline of the story then changed about six things to make sure he didnt get sued.
In 1989, after early retirement from engineering, McKiernan began writing on a full-time basis. McKiernan has subsequently developed stories in the series that followed along a story line different from those that plausibly could have been taken by Tolkien.