Friday, July 08, 2005

Jan Siegel

I mentioned Jan Siegel's Prospero's Children trilogy a couple of days ago, and I wanted to talk about it a bit more. The first book (in particular) in the trilogy is related to the legends of Atlantis, a subject which has been intriguing me since I read The History of Middle-earth (edited by Christopher Tolkien) last summer, and which features more than one of Tolkien's own versions of the Atlantis legend. If the first of Siegel's books, Prospero's Children, has a strong Atlantis theme, then the sequel, The Dragon-Charmer, has more of an Arthurian theme: Fern's friend Gaynor, it is suggested, is related to Guinevere, and the chief villain in this novel is Morgus the witch, who is related to Morgan Le Fey. Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, the third book, Witch's Honour has a Tolkienian theme. In a scene straight out of the third part of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, 'The Return of the King', Fern's partner in the ongoing battle against Morgus kills a Shelob-like spider of monstrous proportions and supernatural power. Also like Tolkien's, Siegel's chief protagonist opts out of the role she has acquired, and chooses to drink a potion that will suppress her Gift (an inheritance from Atlantis) and allow her to forget the various events of the past 14 years. Somehow, I felt this was a cop out. Fern doesn't really achieve healing in the way that Frodo's departure from Middle-earth will allow him to be healed. She chooses to refuse her Gift and to abandon the fight in which she has been intermittently engaged, and I was disappointed by this ending. To me, it didn't feel genuinely heroic: maybe other readers will disagree with me...

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