Anne Bishop: The Tir Alainn Trilogy

I’ll bundle The Pillars of the World, Shadows and Light, and The House of Gaian into a single review. The plot and storytelling was sufficiently consistent between all of them, and each subsequent book immediately picked of where the previous left off that they might as well be considered one long work.

The premise is an idyllic fantasy world that has fae crossing into the human world at their leisure, and generally behaving somewhat like arrogant brats. There are sprites and other little folk, and witches that are either appreciated or shunned, and of course humans.

An evil power is gathering and hunting the witches, and old linkages between all of the races have been forgotten, so now fae, witches and humans desperately need to relearn what their role in the greater weave is to counter the threat.

So far, so good. What I didn’t like was that the evil was incredibly caricatured. There’s a strong women’s rights lesson to the story, but the threats are so overt that they detract from the point being made. Another major shortcoming is the plotting. Occasionally evil and conflict gets built up only to utterly deflate. Occasionally it actually leads to tension.

Overall, I was left with a feeling of quite a mess that didn’t have a good dramatic flow; huge amounts of traveling between random places for what occasionally seemed like very contrived reasons, and at other times excessively plot-convenient proximity of people and events. The characters were witty, but didn’t quite ever develop proper depth or sufficient differentiation from each other. The one exception and my clear favorite of the series met with a tragic end, for which I’ve tried to find a good plot justification but haven’t, so I may have a bit of personal beef on that account.

The cosmology, on the other hand, was noteworthy. The origin of the fae or man is not explained satisfactorily, but their roles in the world, their realms and their connection to the witches is a very nice and consistent. The maturation of a couple of the primary characters was pretty well done, even if it didn’t give them that much more depth as people. The duality of some of the more powerful creatures, the tempering of power with responsibility, of destruction with compassion, was interesting.

The characters and prose were sufficient to make me read, if somewhat skimming at times, the entire trilogy, so for that I give it two and a half out of five.

Posted by Toivo Voll