Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Review/ Dwarves by Markus Heitz

Wednesday, April 7, 2010
For countless millennia, the dwarves of the Fifthling Kingdom have defended the stone gateway into Girdlegard. Many and varied foes have hurled themselves against the portal and died attempting to breach it. No man or beast has ever succeeded. Until now. . .

Abandoned as a child, Tungdil the blacksmith labors contentedly in the land of Ionandar, the only dwarf in a kingdom of men. Although he does not want for friends, Tungdil is very much aware that he is alone - indeed, he has not so much as set eyes on another dwarf. But all that is about to change.

Sent out into the world to deliver a message and reacquaint himself with his people, the young foundling finds himself thrust into a battle for which he has not been trained. Not only his own safety, but also the life of every man, woman and child in Girdlegard depends upon his ability to embrace his heritage. Although he has many unanswered questions, Tungdil is certain of one thing: no matter where he was raised, he is a true dwarf.

And no one has ever questioned the courage of the Dwarves.

Dwarves is an epic tale not unlike The Lord of the Rings, and while it took me several days to complete, I was fascinated not only with the story but Heitz’s telling of it.

Like all great epics I first had to acclimate myself to a strange new world, and familiarize myself with the multitude of characters. Girdlegard is a place where dwarves, elves, magus, and humans dwell. The world of Girdlegard is divided into five different dwarf kingdoms. In the preface, which takes place over 1000 Solar Cycles before the actual story’s setting, Heitz graphically, describes the destruction of the Fifthling Kingdom by Orcs and the Alfar who are evil elves bent on destroying Girdlegard including the Elven Kingdom of Alandur. The preface sets an ominous tone for the events that take place throughout the tale and provides an immediate understanding of the courageous nature of the Dwarves.

Once acclimated, the plot begins to unfold, and background is skillfully described.  Heitz introduces us to Tunglin, a foundling raised by a magus who after thirty cycles has never met another dwarf. Tunglin is sent off on a journey by his magus, which ends up becoming a quest to save all of Girdlegard. Tunglin is joined by two warrior dwarves who teach him how to fight and what it means to be a dwarf. Tunglin is the perfect hero. He is smart, loyal, pure of heart, and as the story unfolds he is thrust into his role of savoir quite unexpectedly and not without trepidation of his ability to succeed. However, Tunglin grows not only as a dwarf, but also as a true leader.

The main conflict, the complete demise of Girdlegard, was amazingly complex. A power hungry magus is possessed by evil. Girdlegarth is systematically being taken over by the Perished Land, which not only destroys the land, but resurrects dead humans, dwarves and elves as reverents (zombies) in league of course with the evil magus. They only thing that can possibly save the realm, is if Tunglin can forge a weapon that will destroy the evil magus. Of course, along the way, Tunglin has to deal with betrayal, political unrest, and many Orcs. Heitz masterfully narrates the battles, and continually throws obstacle after obstacle at the dwarves as they try to complete their quest.

What truly made this epic worthwhile for me however, was Heitz’s unique characterization. Tunglin was of course carefully drawn and easy to love, but the other characters, even the minor ones, all came to life. I especially liked the two brothers, who became Tunglin’s companions early on in the story. They both were responsible for helping Tunglin learn about his heritage, and their personalities were dynamically revealed through dialogue and action.

Any reader who has journeyed to Middle Earth and enjoyed the trip, or recognizes the enormous contribution J. R. R. Tolkien made to the writing of fantasy, will find The Dwarves comparable. The plot is complexly layered, the characters are well rounded and dynamic, and the conflict builds tension and suspense that I found my heart racing especially during the last 150 pages. While this is not a book for all readers, if you are a true lover of fantasy than The Dwarves is not to be missed.


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