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The Still

David Feintuch

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Orbit

Published : 1998

Copyright : David Feintuch 1998

ISBN-10 : PB 1-85723-597-5
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-85723-597-5

Publisher's Write-Up

David Feintuch, author of the bestselling Seafort Saga and winner of the John W. Campbell Award, has become one of the strongest new voices in modern SF. Now this exciting author brings his insight and storytelling to a new world of fantasy adventure.

Prince Rodrigo was born to rule - or was he? The spoiled young heir of Caledon has paid scant heed to duty, compassion, or the power he must wield...and the queen's death leaves him a hunted outlaw. To claim his crown, Roddy needs allies. To win them he must learn to rule. To rule, he must command the Still, the ancient Power of Caledon. But first he must rule himself. For to become a king, Rodrigo must first become a man...

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nadine (140504) Rating (8/10)

Review by Nadine
Rating 8/10
This book has been around for six years and in my opinion, it deserves to be better known. Medieval Fantasy is not my usual cup of tea, but it came to me highly recommended so I decided to find out why.

It is the tale of Rodrigo – the young heir to a kingdom composed largely of feuding territories, each with a unique and mysterious Power which can only be used by the region’s rightful ruler. Following the death of the Queen, Rodrigo’s greedy uncle appoints himself Regent, on the grounds that Rodrigo is too young to rule. Soon it becomes apparent that he does not have the young prince’s best interests at heart, having every intention of keeping the throne for himself.

Rodrigo absconds, with the help of a few trusted accomplices: his nanny, his best friend, his eleven-year-old brother, and a stable boy. What follows is an eventful quest to gather support among the outlying territories, to overthrow his uncle and re-claim the crown. But first he has a lot of growing up to do – he has to learn about diplomacy, humility and self-control. He also has to discover the nature of his Kingdom’s Power – the eponymous Still.

There are lots of reasons why I shouldn’t like this book. For a start, Old-English dialogue usually makes for laborious reading. Lines like “I have wronged thee greatly” and “You have no leave!” don’t exactly fly off the page. At least, not at first, but after a few chapters the language invokes a convincing Medieval atmosphere, and if any effort was required to follow the speech, I didn’t notice.

There was also rather more blood and gore than I usually like to read about; this is not the best book to settle down with while enjoying a toasted sandwich. The battle and torture scenes are gruesomely detailed and no injury is left without a bone-tingling explanation. I found some of it a bit unnecessary, but if nothing else, it is an effective method of getting the reader to squirm with loathing for the bad guys.

What I found most perturbing while reading this was my complete inability to decide whether or not I actually liked Rodrigo. The tale is told from his point of view, in the first person, so the reader is familiar with his every thought, his motivations and his reasoning. From inside his head, he seems a pleasant enough chap. However, he is prone to the most outrageously irrational outbursts and insults and treats the very people who are trying to help him absolutely deplorably. I tried, but I just couldn’t understand why. The Rodrigo who acts and the Rodrigo who thinks seem like two completely different people.

This brings me rather nicely to the good points. It is worth sticking with our seemingly two-sided hero, because there is an explanation for his behaviour. Naturally I am not going to disclose it, but it was a relief to find that I was supposed to be somewhat bewildered. On that point I shall say no more.

One thing I particularly liked was the lengthy sequence where Rodrigo begins his travels. He picks up the odd unexpected companion to add to his rag-tag band of supporters: a young soldier from a hostile rival territory, a deserter from his uncle’s forces… it all reminded me of a Role-Playing Adventure Game – adding new characters to the party was always my favourite part of the game and this was strangely satisfying in the same way.
There is humour, too. Not laugh-till-you-choke, break-your-ribs, fall-off-your-chair humour, but the kind of quiet, unassuming humour that tickles you gently. It either appeals to you or it doesn’t, but I liked it. If you will allow me to indulge in another quote:

“Shut up, brother, or I’ll – I’ll warm your rump!”

I think that is a phrase that will make its way into my own vocabulary.

My final point of praise is for the ending. Most of the book has a steady, almost plodding pace, punctuated with moments of excitement or intrigue. Towards the end, though, the pace gathers to a gallop, and the revelations and twists come so thick and fast that you barely have time to savour one before the next hits you. It could be argued that the final chapters seemed a bit rushed, and the end came too abruptly after the gradual build-up, but I think it was rather effective.

On the whole I thought the background to the story was original and intriguing, the plot was absorbing and the characters were well developed and believable. There was plenty of adventure, light (if unconventional) romance and a touch of mystery.

The Still left me satisfied, uplifted and itching to get my grubby little mitts on the sequel.

Book Two is called The King, and I will definitely be reading it.
Nadine (14th May 2004)

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