Read Suldrun's Garden by Jack Vance Online

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The Elder Isles, located in what is now the Bay of Biscay off the the coast of Old Gaul, are made up of ten contending kingdoms, all vying with each other for control. At the centre of much of the intrigue is Casmir, the ruthless and ambitious king of Lyonesse. His beautiful but otherworldly daughter, Suldrun, is part of his plans. He intends to cement an alliance or two bThe Elder Isles, located in what is now the Bay of Biscay off the the coast of Old Gaul, are made up of ten contending kingdoms, all vying with each other for control. At the centre of much of the intrigue is Casmir, the ruthless and ambitious king of Lyonesse. His beautiful but otherworldly daughter, Suldrun, is part of his plans. He intends to cement an alliance or two by marrying her well. But Suldrun is as determined as he and defies him. Casmir coldly confines her to the overgrown garden that she loves to frequent, and it is here that meets her love and her tragedy unfolds. Political intrigue, magic, war, adventure and romance are interwoven in a rich and sweeping tale set in a brilliantly realized fabled land....

Title : Suldrun's Garden
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780575073746
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 448 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Suldrun's Garden Reviews

  • KatHooper
    2019-02-25 15:23

    ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.As I'm writing this, Jack Vance's under-appreciated Lyonesse trilogy has been off the shelves for years. My library doesn't even have a copy — it had to be interlibrary loaned for me. Why is that? Publishers have been printing a seemingly endless stream of vampire and werewolf novels these days — same plot, same characters, blah blah blah. If not that, it's grit. We all want grit. Or maybe it's that more women are reading fantasy these days and publishers think we want to read about bad-ass heroines who kill vampires. But, the publishers and authors are just giving us what we demand, I suppose. We all got sick of the sweeping medieval-style multi-volume epics that take forever to write, publish, and read. So now we get vampires and sassy chicks with tattoos and bare midriffs. When we've become glutted with those (it can't be long now), what's next?I've got a suggestion: Publishers, why don't you reprint some of the best classic fantasy? Let's start with Jack Vance's Lyonesse. Here we have a beautiful and complex story full of fascinating characters (even those we only see for a couple of pages are engaging), unpredictable and shocking plot twists, and rambling and entertainingly disjointed adventure. No clichés. No vampires.As a psychologist, I especially appreciated the many insights into human cognition and perceptual processing that I found in Suldrun's Garden. But what's best is Jack Vance's unique style. He's quirky, funny, and droll. He uses language not just to tell us an interesting story, but he actually entertains us with the way he uses language to tell the story. Similar to Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, or Catherynne Valente, but in a different, completely unique style. I love authors who respect the English language and compose their prose with care and precision. Many of Jack Vance's sentences are purposely funny in their construction and I find myself laughing and delighted not at what was said, but at how it was said. Here's his description of Shimrod's excursion to another world:He apprehended a landscape of vast extent dotted with isolated mountains of gray-yellow custard, each terminating in a ludicrous semi-human face. All faces turned toward himself, displaying outrage and censure. Some showed cataclysmic scowls and grimaces, others produced thunderous belches of disdain. The most intemperate extruded a pair of liver-colored tongues, dripping magma which tinkled in falling, like small bells; one or two spat jets of hissing green sound, which Shimrod avoided, so that they struck other mountains, to cause new disturbance.And here is part of King Casmir's lecture to his daughter Suldrun when she announced that she's not ready to get married:That is sentiment properly to be expected in a maiden chaste and innocent. I am not displeased. Still, such qualms must bend before affairs of state ... Your conduct toward Duke Carfilhiot must be amiable and gracious, yet neither fulsome not exaggerated. Do not press your company upon him; a man like Carfilhiot is stimulated by reserve and reluctance. Still, be neither coy not cold ... Modesty is all very well in moderation, even appealing. Still, when exercised to excess it becomes tiresome.If you can find a used copy of Suldrun's Garden, the first of the Lyonesse trilogy, snatch it up. There are some available on Amazon and there's a kindle version, too. (Beware the Fantasy Masterworks version, which is known to have printing errors). Jack Vance is original; You won't get his books confused with anyone else's. This is beautiful work for those who love excellent fantasy literature!Read this review in context at Fantasy Literature.

  • Lyn
    2019-03-11 17:25

    Mixed feelings.I wanted to LOVE this book, wanted it to prove how Jack Vance is the vanguard of best writers you’ve not read, this was going to be the diamond in the rough, the treasure chest uncovered and raised from the depths of out-of-printness.And there were parts, PARTS, I did love. I loved the idea behind the book. Take a thirty-year mortgage of artistic license and slap a scotch tape amendment on the globe and you’ve got an idea about the cajones that Vance displayed. I mean, he just ADDED a continent. Take a truckload of myths and legends, and SMACK, there we go, right THERE, between Ireland, Cornwall and Gaul. Like a Steve Martin thumbprint on the snow globe of history.I loved the Celtic, Gaelic, Druidic – Atlantean – themes riding bareback across the pages. Vance dredged up our collective mythic pre-history and made it fit somewhere in the early dark ages. Rome? Still there. Germanic migrations? Yep. Avalon and Ys? There – right here – right over here in the Elder Isles. The what? “Forget it, he’s rolling.”And just like John “Brother Bluto” Blutarsky Jack Vance was rolling, but in his own, weird atavistic and eclectic style.Along with faerie stories straight out of Celtic Twilight, there are creepy and dark tales from Brothers Grimm and the Black Forest, and also some gratuitous and graphic medieval violence.There are the Ska, a dramatically interesting and cruelly charismatic race of people who have a fascinating ten thousand year cultural history – that we don’t read enough about.There are characters to whom we are introduced and in whom we are invested that … kind of just go away.There are great disjointed inconsistencies that … intrigue and make me want to read the next book.It’s like the really pretty girl in high school who is inexplicably not asked out to prom. It’s like the New York Yankees who outspent every other team, have the best hitters and the most devastatingly unhittable pitchers … who miss the playoffs. It’s a good book that might have been, should have been great – but was just good.

  • Bradley
    2019-03-07 18:24

    Wow. What a wonderful surprise! For an early eighties fantasy, it reads rather fantastically easy, with a near perfect blend of adventure, spry heroes and heroines, and an almost mythical command of myth, history, and magic in a hugely creative blend. We're not even bogged down in any such weird concepts like "historical accuracy", either. And actually, I loved the whole idea of slap-dashing a whole continent next to Gaul and throwing in Merlin (Murgen), Mithra, evil christians, the fae, chivalry, high Celts, and so much more. None of it overwhelmed the taste of adventure, where three kingdoms vied, played, made alliances, and started wars during a span of 30 years, and the characterizations were pure fantasy boilerplate, but lest you get turned off by that idea, just know that they all go through tons of changes... heck, they went through nearly as many as what happen to the plot, itself.Is that a problem? Hell no. Not for me. I was actually rather amazed at the sheer scope of where we started, from a princess's childhood (Suldrun), her setup as a fairytale, then the betrayal of her wonderful prince (Aillas), their love, and their tragedy merely sets the stage, even if it takes up a sizable portion of the book. The rest of the tale happens to be one of the best written and most imaginative, quickly paced, and thoroughly satisfying traditional fantasy novels I've ever read, staying firmly on the road of adventure, adventure, adventure.Aillas's tragedy is only the starting point, after all, and making a ladder out of bones is just the beginning, especially after he learns that his lost Suldrun had a child. Tons of trigger points for me, and I've never gotten tired of such tales. I just can't believe how awesome the adventure was, or just how much was accomplished all the way to a mostly happy ending.And now that I've finished the first book in the trilogy and loved it, I have absolutely no reason not to enthusiastically dive into The Green Pearl. :)

  • Algernon
    2019-03-03 11:20

    Centuries in the past, at that middle-distant time when legend and history start to blur, Blausreddin the pirate built a fortress at the back of a stony semi-circular harbor... Blausreddin plays no further role in the present story, but his fortress eventually evolved into a city of fame and wonder : Lyonesse, the capital of the Elder Isles, an imaginary archipelago in the Atlantic, somewhere off the coasts of Britain and Bretagne. As for the period in which the adventure takes place, the meeting of legend and history is set a couple of generations before the advent of King Arthur and his Knights. Here in the Elder Isles there is to be found the original Round Table, a symbol of both leadership and power sharing that the kings of Lyonesse misplaced into the custody of a rival kingdom. It is worth noting here that the once united Isles are at the start of the epic divided into ten unruly and warring kingdoms: North Ulfland, South Ulfland, Dahaut, Caduz, Blaloc, Pomperol, Godelia, Troicinet, Dascinet and Lyonesse. The reader will get a chance to get familiar with all of them over the next three ample volumes. The Arthurian Round Table and the quest of King Casmir of Lyonesse to recover it will form the main theme of the trilogy, but on this basic frame Jack Vance builds a meandering and many branched tale, often taking detours and sidetrips to explore the many natural wonders, the magical features and the curious habits of the people of the Elder Isles. This apparent lack of focus and leisure pacing has given reason to some reviewers more concerned about linear storytelling to give a lower rating, but in my case it has provided an immersive experience and a continuous sense of wonder at the imaginative powers of the author, already evident in his other major series about The Dying Earth. Other similarities to that collection of stories include the numerous amoral protagonists, the wicked sense of humour, the elaborate and formal use of language, the gateways to parallel worlds and a pervasive melancholy, a sense of a doomed world that shines more brightly in its last flowering before a cataclysm or simple forgetfulness will erase it from our history books. The placing of the imaginary Elder Isles in the Atlantic is also drawing parallels to the ancient fate of Atlantis, the sunken kingdom, and hints at a similar impending doom are scattered throughout the epic, mostly from ‘gnomic utterances’ of the most powerful magician around, named Murgen. To the north the Sfer Arct passed between the crags Maegher and Yax: petrified giants who had helped King Zoltra Bright Star dredge Lyonesse Harbor; becoming obstreperous, they had been transformed into stone by Amber the sorcerer: so the story went. The short quote above illustrates how each turn in the road, each meadow in the forest and each mountain crag in the Elder Isles has a history, a hidden danger, a trace of magic infusing and defining its nature. It could be argued that the novels belong in the sword & sorcery niche of fantasy with their accent on individual feats of valor, scoundrels as anti-heroes, flashes of black humour and numerous instances of supernatural manifestations, but Jack Vance is diverging from the usual light fare of the genre by the awesome scope of his worldbuilding and his particular lyrical prose that is closer to Tolkien’s High English than to R E Howard, Michael Moorcock or Fritz Leiber.The actual plot is so convoluted that I am having a bit of trouble knowing where to start, or how much to tell without spoiling the fun of discovery. Nominally, the first volume is about Suldrun, the beautiful, whimsical and sad daughter of the ambitious King Casmir of Lyonesse. A free spirit, she feels imprisoned in the sombre castle Haidion, roaming the cold stone halls in search of adventure. Her mother wants her to show proper deportment and her father desires to give her in marriage in exchange of political advantages, but Suldrun is reluctant to leave one gilded cage for another. From the unequal conflict of wills with her father, she is banished to a secluded spot of the palace grounds, the only place where she can find peace and solitude: an abandoned inlet of the sea under the palace walls that she tranforms into her personal garden. In here she will eventually learn both about true love and despair. Her tragic fate is hinted at early in the novel, as she comes across Persillian, a talking mirror with powers of prophecy, who shows her the face of a future lover, then mocks her following inquiries: From time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue – all as perversity strikes me. Now I am silent; this is my mood. Other characters are divided between wizards (Murgen, Shimrod, Tamurello, Desmei) and knights / knaves (Aillas, Carfilhiot). While Suldrun languishes in her hidden garden, Aillas, Shimrod and the others roam the countryside far and wide, facing dangers from mortal and supernatural enemies. The one aspect of the world that remains in my mind at the end of the book, is the lack of a clear moral dividing line, the fickleness of destiny and the way bad things happen to innocent and guilty parties indiscriminately. As one of the wizards, Tamurello, remarks: What a strange and unfamiliar world if everyone were treated according to his desserts!Lyonesse will enchant you with its wonders, but will also break your heart when one of your favorite characters draws the short stick of chance. Until I return with the second installment, I will dwell for a time at theInn of the Laughing Sun and the Crying Moon , deep in the Forest of Tantrevalles, waiting for the Midsummer Night and the festival that usually takes place at a nearby crossroads. I hope to meet with some of my friends there:You’ll see all kinds of halflings: fairies and goblins, trolls and merryhews, and even an old falloy, though they show themselves seldom, out of shyness, despite being the most beautiful of all. You’ll hear songs and music and much chinking of fairy-gold, which they squeeze from buttercups. Oh they’re a rare folk, the fairies!

  • mark monday
    2019-03-12 16:18

  • Whitaker
    2019-02-22 18:29

    If Lyonesse were a food, it would be: Bits of different kinds of things all thrown into one receptacle but where you can still taste each individual food item, all smothered with custardy gooey goodness. So, how about a Lyonesse recipe you ask? 1 loaf of fantasy geopolitical intrigue, heated till crisp and diced finely A large punnet of wild fairy talesA large cup of piquant tongue-in-cheek Another large cup of creamy purple prose Old myths for seasoning - Marinate your wild fairy tales with the piquant tongue-in-cheek- Place one layer of wild fairy tales in your receptacle - Cover with a layer of dicey hot geopolitical intrigue - Repeat the layers until the receptacle is full - Smother the whole thing with the creamy prose and douse with the remaining tongue-in-cheek- Sprinkle heavily with old myths or to tasteYummmm… delish!

  • aPriL does feral sometimes
    2019-03-13 18:44

    'Suldrun's Garden' is written with an amazingly huge number of disguised and re-imagined classic fairy-tale tropes using many of the non-fiction historical soap operas of England's actual royal families as a platform for the fictional plots. It is also book one in the Lyonesse trilogy. Lyonesse was one of ten minor kingdoms on a large (fictional) island and some nearby smaller ones called the Elder Isles, situated to the west of Old Gaul (The actual United Kingdom) in the Atlantic. The Elder Isles are today sunk under the sea, like the famous city of Atlantis, the small realms which each of the ten kings' held on their apportioned acreage on the divided island and their individual strivings for power living on in legends only. Many of the ancient tales seem to begin with Lyonesse at the center of the stories, either because its ambitious kings started much havoc in their attempts to control all of the Elder Isles or because of ruthless people who begin putting nefarious activities into play around Lyonesse by chance. The book describes a series of events which are begun by the birth of neglected and unappreciated Suldrun, princess and daughter of the crowned heads of Lyonesse - King Casmir and Queen Sollace. Princess Suldrun becomes increasingly disobedient as she grows up, but she can never overcome her parents' authority in a large way. Only a son can be heir to the throne of Lyonesse. Suldrun remains of value only as a pawn her father uses to dangle possible political alliances in discussions for trade, military support and power. When she finally defies her expected role, it sets in motion a set of unexpected outcomes and journeys for many other characters, some of whom do not appear linked to Lyonesse or Suldrun at all. Jack Vance has created a fictional world so complete I forgot it was entirely imaginary until the intrusion of magical creatures and magicians. Maps, glossaries, and a history of infamous kings similar to those of the real European Middle Ages who constantly plotted against their neighbors for generations of skirmishes and warfare added to the effect of verisimilitude. Daughters and sons of kings find themselves used as chess pieces in ultimately meaningless but painfully life-altering political games involving marriage to seal alliances between frenemy kingdoms, which do not ever seem to go well in fact or fiction. Commoners who serve their royal leaders live or die from whimsical commands and perceived slights, but common folk still suffer even if they live far away from the Royal castle on farms and in towns, attacked by brigands, murderers and thieves. Everybody, including Kings, are afraid of the magical beings and creatures living in woods and other places. Magicians and witches of various strengths are almost as feared as the ten hereditary kings. I hesitate to say much more than this, gentle reader. The book reminded me of novels that were serialized in newspapers where the narrated journey of the different characters is more interesting than the ending. Different characters take over the point of view and we readers find the entertainment of the reading in the exquisite writing and world building, rather than on a focused endgame for the characters. This book is primarily an entertainment of literary prowess and poetic writing.The author writes in a lovely, but dense, lyrical style. His characters live in an interesting, and eventually interlocking, world, but it is a novel of seemingly separate Grimm's-like fairy tales at first. I do not recommended it for those looking for happy endings or a taut organized progression of forward movement or a novel to read with your children. Females are raped and men are punished with the typical violence utilized by our early primitive Middle Ages. Magical beings are completely into pursuits undifferentiated from ordinary men. The author has included a trope for every European fairy tale element and character I know about and many of whom I have never read anything, until now. I was enchanted by the author's poetic lyricism and inventive imagination, and charmed by the intricate world-building, but I felt sad by the tragedies most characters endure.

  • Ian Farragher
    2019-03-19 16:40

    Jack Vance is the best writer you've never heard of.You can get lost in his tales whilst still believing that you are looking into the lives of real people. They may be people 10,000 or 100,000 years in the future; or further back, in some Ur-Common myth. His characters are what make his stories.Lyonesse is a distant memory. I sought these books many times in yesteryear. The world has caught up a bit. What I remember from the first time is: being impressed with the way Vance did fantasy. I was moved in a way I have never been with Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, Martin, or whomever. He made it seem lie history. So, this is no ordinary fairy tale, it's adult. There are shades of grey (and not in the BDSM sense, either**). There's politics, dirt (even in fae land), and a truly wonderful human-ness*.This is a good read. If I count a series as one book this somewhere around 7 or 8 on my top 10.Hey, if anyone wants to send me the original first run hardcovers for Christmas, (or just because it's Tuesday), I would gladly accept them and mail you kisses back. (They are mine, now.) * (Shut-up spell check, that is not a misspelling, neither is humany or humanish.)** updated for 2013.

  • Jon
    2019-03-16 13:33

    Crisp and complex, with a surprisingly bold earthiness, and an elegant opulent finish; the heady aromatics are reminiscent of oaks in bloom. Pairs well with edam.

  • Jaro
    2019-03-22 11:47

  • Bryan
    2019-02-25 10:45

    Does any other author write amazing and strange fantasy so eloquently as Jack Vance? The question is nuncupatory.

  • Eddie Costello
    2019-02-23 12:22

    I was highly disappointed in this book, there was sparks of greatness but mostly disappointmentPros--Thankfully the author didn't stretch the story out with useless dialog he gets straight to the point which was refreshing - Suldrun is an awesome character and fully fleshed out- I also enjoyed the references to Avalon and the setting of this book is a real place that I believe sunk into the ocean(don't quote me on that but I'm pretty sure it's something similar)Cons- mostly horrible characters that feel one sided-useless plot lines - cringe worthy dialogue -Drune's(he was a pretty good character I kinda liked him) storyline was pretty pointless IMO I don't like to leave series unfinished and if anybody else has read the trilogy let me know if it's worth continuing cause I thought this first book was barely readable... I'm kinda on the fence about picking book 2 up

  • Alissa
    2019-03-11 13:38

    This story...I can only say, the narrative brings the Lord of the Rings to mind, that with genealogies, the lore, the mild tone. And yet, and yet, I was glued to it. Suldrun's tale is riveting and no matter the omniscient narrator, or maybe thanks to its voice, immersing in the Elder Isles imagery, I turned and turned and turned the pages, forgetting everything else. “What are dreams? Ordinary experience is a dream. The eyes, the ears, the nose: they present pictures on the brain, and these pictures are called ‘reality.’ At night, when we dream, other pictures, of source unknown, are impinged. Sometimes the dream-images are more real than ‘reality.’ Which is solid, which illusion? Why trouble to make the distinction? When tasting a delicious wine, only a pedant analyzes every component of the flavor. When we admire a beautiful maiden, do we evaluate the particular bones of her skull? I am sure we do not. Accept beauty on its own terms: this is the creed of Villa Meroe.”

  • Anirudh
    2019-03-04 13:23

    The first book in the Lyonesse series Suldrun's Garden is a mixed bag of reading experiences. Some aspects of the novel have been well portrayed but not so in some other cases.Plot Suldrun's garden is a low fantasy set against the backdrop of Arthurian Myths. It tells the story of an Island king and his ambitions and his ignored daughter Suldrun. Apart from one surprising moment the story is pretty much straight forward. World Building The author makes good use of Arthurian folklore and he blends it with his own set of myths. He also does a great work of using real life civilisations and mixing it with his world of fantasy. The magic does not have a strong foothold in the novel despite having creatures of fantasy, rather it adds to the semi historical setting of the novel.Writing Narration dominates dialogues throughout the novel. There is very little conversation and a lot of observation. Many times the beautiful narration works its magic as we explore the world of Suldrun, but more often than not it slows down reading and fails to generate interest in the plot or the characters.Characters The characters in the novel were often unsatisfying. There are good and evil characters and they tend to stick to one side permanently. There is little character development and often come out as stereotypical. Although since the book came out in the 80s it was perhaps not a stereotype then. There are a few good moments in the novel but they are far too few in between.Recommended to readers who prefer traditional style of fantasy and love detailed narrations.

  • Mohammed
    2019-02-25 10:20

    This is the 29th Vance novel/collection that i have read and The Dying Earth novels with Cugel, Rialtho is still my all-time favorite Vance because i like the world of Dying Earth so much but this is easily the best i have read of this legendary author. I dont even like to read High fantasy usually but a dense for a Vance novel, story that is so imaginative, bold, ambitious and Vance at his literary best when it comes to prose style, use of language. I would like to write a lengthy review to analyse this like a literary class essay the many sides of this mysterious, beautiful novel but it still wouldn't do justice to this magnificent novel.

  • PaulPerry
    2019-02-27 12:24

    Aside from the Dying Earth books, I’ve not read much Jack Vance. Which is odd, as I do adore those, the complexity and richness of the language, the sly wit and dark humour, the anti-heroes so well rendered. Lyonesse is a quite different beast. In some ways it feels far more of a traditional fantasy than the much earlier tales of Cugel the clever and Turjan and Chun the Unavoidable. It is definitely more of a true novel; most of the Dying Earth books are portmanteau made up of episodic short stories, while this is a distinct single tale.The novel is set in several of the divided kingdoms of the Elder Isles, placed south of Ireland and north of Iberia, roughly where the Bay of Biscay becomes the Atlantic Ocean proper, as shown with a truly terrible map. We gather from the setting and occasional footnotes that this is where so many of the myths of Europe originate; this is Atlantis and Hy-Brasil and the Fairy Isles.It did take me a little while to find my feet, for a couple of reasons. It wasn’t initially clear to me where this Atlantean land in which the tale unfolds was situated in time; the language and mores felt largely like those of the late middle ages (or, at any rate, with that Arthurian feel of the late middle ages from which much high fantasy takes its tone) but the references did not truly help to place it anywhere - or, rather, anywhen. It is stated that the founding family of one kingdom are also of the line that gave rise to Arthur Pendragon, although this seems to have been some time before. There is a Christian missionary, and reference is stated to the power of the church of Rome. It is, I think, deliberately vague and anachronistic, and it cased to be an issue once I was in caught up in the story.Also early on, I had a problem with some changes of tone. At the outset the authorial voice is recognisably high fantasy, and becomes somewhat mythic or fairytale at points, but then we have a sudden shift into a rather dry chapter of historical and political exposition, before returning to the fairytale fantasy tone. Not long after this, however, I saw how the separate sections began to come together and that they were threads weaving into a greater tapestry. Vance does this quite superbly, introducing what appear to be obvious directions for the plot (obvious because of the fairytale fantasy inflection of the writing) only to immediately subvert them - and then call back much later on with an unforeseen payoff.The characters are somewhere between mythic archetypes and actual people, something brought out by the habit of several of the magicians of the books splitting off from themselves scions, or sub-personalities, which begin as an aspect of the original but quickly develop their own characteristics.For perhaps the first quarter of the book I was enjoying Lyonesse and thought it fine but, by the halfway point, I began to see why this is considered one of the great works of fantasy.

  • Jaro
    2019-02-22 16:48

    This is copy 97 of 500 numbered clothbound copies signed by the author.

  • Metaphorosis
    2019-03-12 18:22

    I first read Suldrun's Garden when it came out in the 1980s. At least I think I did; maybe it was later. In any case, I didn't like it much. I recall thinking that it seemed like an effort to get in on the latest Arthurian craze (Marion Zimmer Bradley'sMists of Avalon came out around the same time. It felt like references to myth and legend were shoehorned in, and Vancian imagination was crowded out. It was still written in his inimitable style, though, so I read the rest of the series anyway.Re-reading it now, I can vaguely see what I was thinking of. But there's also a lot of traditional Vance in here, and I'm not sure why I didn't give it credit at the time. It's more in the style of The Dying Earth's Mazirian than it is The Dogtown Tourist Agency, but it's Vance without a doubt.The story concerns the Elder Isles off the coast of France (now sadly sunken), including the large island Hybras, and its regions Avalon, Ulfland, and Lyonesse. Ambitious kings and magicians vie with each other for power and land. Some outcomes are sad, some brutal, many melancholy. Happiness tends to happen off stage.In any case, the story is interesting, and I must update my earlier evaluation. One thing that I don't recall, however, and that is nonetheless true, is that this first volume of the trilogy just stops. Many plotlines are resolved, and there's really no barrier to a satisfying close, but there isn't one. Instead, the text just ends at a moderately convenient point, and the book is over. Or nearly over, since a very awkward epilogue is tacked on that starts "What now?", and frankly reads more like Vance's notes for the sequel than like text the reader should be seeing. While I've upgraded my ranking from a remembered two stars to three, it's this poor closing, rather than my earlier quibbles, that prevents the book from getting four.It's a good story, but I continue to suspect that the praise it got when issued was more a recognition of Vance's historic skill than for the story itself. Overall, this is good, and worth reading (as a full trilogy), but it's not Vance's best work.CVIE V*** It took me a while to post this review, since I picked the book up to read just around the time Jack Vance died. I admire his writing so much that I was uncomfortable posting an unenthusiastic review just while I was encouraging people to (re-)discover his genius. Still, here it is. It also inspired me to write a story triggered by a scene in this novel (view spoiler)[ when Scharis remains at Maroe(hide spoiler)], and titled ("Punctilio") in Vance's honor. I don't pretend to Vance's magic with words, but keep an eye out for it eventually.

  • John Wiswell
    2019-03-18 11:19

    The novel begins intriguingly with its numerous references to what will become Arthurian mythology. Lyonesse itself is a historically apocryphal part of the Pendragon/Arthurian Britain, but Vance has no desire for historical accuracy and populates it with wizards, unicorns and monsters that none of the pseudo-realistic Arthurian writers bring out today. His book begins with the lives of several privileged children that are either privy to the political designs of their parents or are being prepared to take them over someday. Naturally that doesn’t happen. Things go awry and several characters wind up stranded, orphaned or whatnot, and the novel generally follows some of them trying to survive, others looking for them, and a little conquest.While the events of the plot are interesting in theory, Vance has two big problems. Firstly, his children and adults sound almost identical, so it's difficult to maintain a sense of who is who. His annoyed adults sound like bratty kids, and a knowledgeable person of any age or gender has the same voice. Since the book is very driven by dialogue and what characters want right now, even people in very different stations don’t stand out. The only strong differences are when stations effect each other, like a teacher and student or a torturer and victim.The other problem is that no minor plot point lasts long enough to be significant, so something like a plan for slaves to escape is resolved before it’s intriguing. Sometimes a character will need to do something and the next paragraph will simply say they did it and move the plot on, making one wonder why Vance included the problem at all. Vance also doesn’t develop his characters into anything particularly novel following their trials, so it doesn’t feel like there’s progress despite a great number of things happening. That’s not a good place to start a trilogy.It's a shame since Vance has a great imagination for the fantastic, and it’s on display from the folktales and anecdotes that open this novel. But what’s charming in the beginning becomes tiring; I read the first half of the novel in two days, but it took me weeks to find the desire to finish it. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t seem to have the attention span to write more than situations and more anecdotes when the actual plot struck.

  • Ollie
    2019-02-21 11:33

    I first read Lyonesse as a teenager and immediately fell in love with it. Sure, there were some minor plot holes - especially as the story moved through the trilogy of the same name - but its overall charm won in the end. Then, a few years later in university, I tried reading it again and thought it was a terrible misogynistic creation - to the point where I took the whole trilogy to a nearby charity shop and gave it away.Seventeen years later and I was tempted to revisit the series again and find out why I'd loved it in the first place, and if the misogyny was really so bad. What I discovered was a world firmly in the mold of Angela Carter's fairy tales - the bite and sting from fairies and trolls casually sitting beside the evil committed by kings and queens. Not only that but some of Chaucer's ribaldry too. Stories definitely not meant for children. It's been a reminder for me of how important it is to revisit loved books: the stories never remain the same - we see them through different eyes as we grow older.G.R.R. Martin took, no doubt, a lot of inspiration from Lyonesse for his A Song of Ice and Fire series - the geography of both worlds is similar as well as its intrigues, horrors, tragic love stories and magic. Lyonesse, however, is an expansion on the Arthurian legend which gives Vance more scope to play with motifs such as early Christianity (one of the biggest horrors in the book is the building of a chapel in a beautiful and remote garden.) G.R.R. Martin must have also taken note of the major plot twist in this novel that takes all readers by surprise which raises the novel above others in the fantasy genre.

  • Esmeralda Rupp-Spangle
    2019-03-15 14:23

    Classic Vance- I was apprehensive since I've only ever read Jack Vance's Sci-Fi, and was unsure how well his style would translate to pure fantasy, but truly, I should not have doubted. As always it's filled with his wonderful florid use of the English language, and I always feel smarter after finishing a Vance novel. In this particular story, Vance has gone to extreme lengths to be especially unforgiving towards his characters, and there is elegant and discreetly described rape, torture, murder, and various other atrocities, so fair warning to those with delicate literary dispositions. All in all an excellent story, beautifully written, on a mythical but carefully constructed and described island to the south of England in an undisclosed era sometime in the foggy past. There are fantastical creatures one would expect, and some that are particular to this series. They are all painted in such a rich and unique way that I found myself having dreams very much reflective of the book. Essentially the story follows the lives of the unfortunate Prince Allias and the even more unfortunate Princess Suldrun, as well as a host of others (equally unfortunate characters) whose lives intertwine and combine and smash together in convulsive disaster and victory, but when woven together turn into a truly grandiose adventure. I've just begun reading the next book in the series, so I don't know if they will continue to be as delicious, but I suspect it would be impossible for them not to be.

  • Nigel
    2019-03-22 13:35

    I think this fantasy trilogy may well be my favourite. It's one I still reread with pleasure, probably because it is so clearly written for adults, though when I first read it as a teenager the violent indignities inflicted on Christian missionaries and the fate of poor Suldrun scared me off after the cosy safety of Middle Earth and Narnia. Luckily I went back to it. The dangers and cruelties of the Elder Isles anticipate the modern hard-boiled fantasy epics of Martin, Abercombie et al, yet the language is that of high chivalry, arch wit and sharp irony. Even the most horrible monster is highly articulate and argues with logic and reason. For every danger and cruelty, however, there is wonder and kindness and joy. The books, also, are unashamedly drenched with magic and crowded with fey personages, possibly the best fictional representation of fairies I have ever read, wonderful creatures utterly without conscience.The story is long and strange and always unexpected. Our protagonists suffer sudden changes or reversals of fortune at every turn, and it's only about halfway through before a narrative begins to take proper shape. Vance's evocation of a fantasy landscape is unparalleled. For the first time, I noticed that there was something missing from the detailed descriptions of meals and feasts and scavenged scraps and quick repasts: no potatoes. Because, of course, they haven't been brought back from the Americas yet. I don't know why, but that little detail made me unaccountably happy.

  • Thom
    2019-03-12 10:43

    Jack Vance puts together a huge cast of characters, a large island full of political intrigue, fairy realms and magic. Through all this, he comes up with a solid story and great prose to boot.Politically, this island (south of the British Isles, west of France) has intrigues and minor skirmishes aplenty. At the mid point of the novel, two of these nations undertake a minor war, framing that section of the story and introducing one of the many main characters.Magically, this island has several reclusive wizards who are mostly in competition with each other, though respecting some sort of compact. The upstart attempt to enter this collection commences with the theft of magical items from another of the many main characters.... and that's just two of the stories interwoven here. Further fleshing out awaits the fairy realms (more than a few, with different kings but respected boundaries), the truce between two warring factions (not likely to hold long) and the reappearance of a wizard destroyed. Whew!Jack Vance closed this story off fairly well but left a lot open, as you can see. For me, this is never a great thing in the first book of a series, and being 30 years old is no excuse. That said, I will seek out more from this Grand Master of Science Fiction in the near future - including the second book of this fine series!

  • Debbie
    2019-03-05 18:43

    The only reason I persevered and finished this book is because it was a book club selection. The first third of the book was so tedious with the history of the Elder Islands and all the politics and wars. And it seemed like every chapter introduced 8 more characters. But I’m glad I stuck with it because once the story focused on Aillas searching for his son, and Dhrun searching for his father, I became caught up in the story. I enjoyed all the magical beings – mermaids, fairies, trolls, 2-headed horses. This isn’t a story for the faint-hearted. Characters were disemboweled, hung, burned, boiled in oil, stretched and poisoned. This book could have used an index of characters at the beginning and less history, but otherwise it was an entertaining story.

  • Aaron
    2019-03-10 16:40

    Vance offers us a book that is meandering, but endearingly meandering. I was only mildly entertained as the characters were introduced, but they all grow quickly and soon have real weight. There are very few amazing, jaw droppingly awesome scenes or concepts, but I was constantly intrigued, and every few pages Vance writes a line that cuts deep.

  • Erica
    2019-03-12 17:46

    This is a bit of a bittersweet review for me, in light of Vance’s passing away only a few days ago. This man’s back catalogue comprises literally hundreds of books, and the Lyonesse series is one of his most lauded works; I had simply never yet got round to reading it.Suldrun’s Garden is the first part in this trilogy, and it’s Vance at his most classic. The book begins in the palace chambers of Queen Sollace as she is giving birth to her first child. King Casmir is nearby to keep an eye on the proceedings, but loses all interest when the child turns out to be a daughter, who is named Suldrun.In any other book, this would set the scene for Suldrun to be the protagonist, but Vance doesn’t work that way. We follow Suldrun for a while as she grows up under the indifferent eye of her father – who is much more interested in expanding his reign beyond the borders of his own kingdom of Lyonesse – and her equally indifferent mother. Casmir only pays attention to Suldrun when she might be of use to him, ie. as a pawn to tempt rivals into a politically advantageous marriage. Suldrun herself simply wishes to be left alone, and defies him in every way she is able to.Often, without warning, the book moves on to a completely new character in a different part of the world and follows that person for a while. This happens several times, and gradually it starts to become clear how the various storylines are interwoven. This doesn’t happen in an all-encompassing, tie-your-threads-together climax ending like you might expect in Hollywood movies, no, it simply all starts to make sense. The story is ultimately a meandering tale of ambition, betrayal, love, adversity and intrigue, encompassing kings, magicians and fairy creatures.Vance’s writing style is unique, and will not suit everyone. His prose is intricate, with lots of obscure words which are used by the characters as easily as if they were part of everyday language. Characters and scenes are described concisely, yet all descriptions are strangely evocative. Conversations are unlike anything you would hear elsewhere, yet they are not stilted, just unusual. Things often feel a little detached, but then something happens which stirs your passion as a reader when you least expect it. Overall I would describe the book as melancholy – in me it evokes feelings of sorrow for things and times long past, which left you with nothing but fond memories.Maybe it is best to use an example paragraph to demonstrate Vance’s style:“Dame Maugelin trudged up the circular stone steps to Dame Boudetta’s apartments, hips rolling and thrusting under her dark brown gown. On the third floor she halted to pant, then went to an arched door of fitted timbers, bound with black iron straps. The door stood ajar. Dame Maugelin pushed it somewhat more open, with a creak of iron hinges, so that she could pass her amplitude through the gap. She advanced to stand in the doorway, eyes darting to all corners of the room at once.”If that speaks to your fancy, give this book a go. It may not always be easy going, but if any book will take you away to far fairy shores on winds of imagination, it is this one.More reviews on Silk Screen Views.

  • Austin Briggs
    2019-02-21 14:28

    More serious fantasy readers among us surely remember this book – a story about ancient, long forgotten islands on the Atlantic, consumed by its waters and about people who inhabited them. The Elder Isles – once home to magical creatures like elves, trolls and goblins; once home to human kingdoms of the 5th century A.D., with their politics, wars, passions and troubles; islands that have long submerged under the oceanic waves. In fact, Vance tells us this fact nearly at the beginning of the story, adding to his writing an aura of a long-lost heritage and nostalgia for something that will never return.‘Lyonesse’ is a novel with several main characters – one of them is a young prince called Aillas. His fate is intertwined with stories of other characters, but Aillas can still be considered the leading one. He is a young prince of an island realm called Troicinet, located more or less 20 miles away from Gaul. Aillas is to succeed his father as king and he receives his education as the future monarch during an important diplomatic mission. Things get complicated, however, when he is mysteriously thrown over his ship’s board…Aillas’ fate is linked to the fate of Suldrun, a young princess of another kingdom called Lyonesse. Her father, powerful king Casmir, wants to arrange a political marriage to boost his own diplomatic and military stance. But Suldrun does not want any of this – she seems to be interested only in the magical garden on the palace grounds. That is, until she meets Aillas…The plot offers interesting twists, as one would expect to happen when mixing magic, wizardry, politics and military conquest. Jack Vance created his world while using rich references to our history, mythology and culture. In fact, the realm of Lyonesse is based on ancient chronicles of Phoenician, Greek, Roman and early Christian merchants. Different races and nations like Vikings or Celts also exist in the novel, depicted as declining or evolving into great powers that our history recorded them as.‘Lyonesse’ portrays the magical reality of the early Dark Ages in a credible and riveting way – the seas are busy with cogs and boats, the battlefields are filled with roars of mighty armies, the highroads teem with merchants, missionaries, pilgrims and adventurers, both from fictitious kingdoms and real places like Gaul, Ireland, Wales or Cornwall. Vance’s world is abundant in historical allusions, although the author himself admitted that he treated historical accuracy with a pinch of salt. So we have the late Middle Ages traditions like jousting and chivalry combined with the political nuances of the collapsing Roman Empire; we have medieval dances, music and architecture existing in contrast with the pre-Christian, semi-barbaric culture saturated with magic.In short, Vance’s ‘Lyonesse’ is a great read. It is linked to the myths of King Arthur and it artfully combines history and magic. I believe ‘Lyonesse’ is a classical historical fantasy novel, having achieved respect and acknowledgement of international critics of the genre.Therefore, strongly recommended!

  • Bertrand
    2019-03-18 11:47

    Lyonesse est un des cycles les plus importants de l’œuvre de Jack Vance et souvent reconnu comme un jalon majeur de la littérature fantasy (à juste titre). Le Jardin de Suldrun est le premier tome d’une trilogie parue il y a presque trente ans. L’ensemble a-t-il pris des rides ? La présentation de l’univers de Vance peut sembler déroutante pour certains, savant mélange de fantastique et d’Histoire. L’action prend place dans les Isles Anciennes, un archipel d’îles situé quelque part entre le Sud de l’Angleterre et la Bretagne. On retrouve bien des liens avec l’Histoire, notamment le mythe du Roi Arthur (ainsi que Celtes, etc.), cependant on est bien loin du roman historique avec magiciens cachés derrière les figures du pouvoir et autres fééries. Suldrun, fille du roi Casmir, le roi du Lyonesse, semble être l’héroïne du récit. Elle ne le restera pas longtemps. L’ensemble du roman est construit sur l’opposition entre le Troicinet et le Lyonesse, deux des royaumes les plus puissants des Isles Anciennes. Princes oubliés, trônes vacants, alliances, espions, strategies militaries: tout est là pour des intrigues en pagailles. Et figurez-vous que la sauce prend bien. La substance se délie un peu en milieu de parcours où Vance se contente de nous faire suivre les pérégrinations plus ou moins intéressantes de certains des protagonistes majeurs. Toutefois cela n’ôte pas les qualités de l’oeuvre, même si celles-ci sont à trouver dans les vieux pots (l’ombre de Tolkien, entre autres).

  • Scott Gray
    2019-03-16 18:46

    If Lord Dunsany had written "Game of Thrones", the result might have been something like this often overlooked fantasy gem by F&SF legend Jack Vance. The setting is the Elder Isles, a magical realm that occupies the seas south of Dark-Ages Britain and Ireland. The story is built on a wonderfully fractious narrative that spins out between a half-dozen characters caught up in the political turmoil roiling the isles' kingdoms. In Lyonesse, the princess Suldrun rejects her father's plans to marry her off for political gain, finding peace and solace in a lost garden. In Troicinet, the young prince Allais is comfortably out of the line of succession until his uncle dies, whereupon a jealous cousin tries to murder him and sets in motion a bittersweet tale of revenge and redemption. The people and the culture of the Elder Isles are beautifully brought to life by Vance's almost-poetic prose, which moves seamlessly between the hard edges of epic fantasy and the winsome quality of the Elder Isles' dark fairy-tale world. Mischievous fey, witches, trolls, and powerful sorcerers define the web of magic that weaves through the high-fantasy politics of Vance's realm, creating a fascinating hybrid that should appeal to readers across the fantasy spectrum.

  • Tomás Sendarrubias garcía
    2019-03-23 16:36

    Entré al Jardín de Suldrun para hacer una pausa entre relato y relato de la edición anotada de la obra de Lovecraft que estoy leyendo, y la verdad es que hubo un momento en el que pensé que iba a salir de allí sin haber terminado la historia que Jack Vance comenzaba a contar. Y es que al comienzo, la sensación que me ha dado es la de una obra lenta, que se movía alrededor de un personaje, la princesa Suldrun, con el que no conseguía empatizar, y la sensación que me daba todo era de que estaba muy hueco. Pero... Pero al final atravesé el erial en el que se me había convertido el principio del libro y a partir de más o menos el primer tercio la cosa comenzó a cambiar, y superada la parte centrada en Suldrun me encontré con una historia original, bien llevada y con un tono muy original, muy apartado de la mayoría de las cosas que estoy leyendo ahora mismo en lo que a fantasía se refiere. El Jardín de Suldrun tiene mucho de cuento, en cuanto a su narración, sus protagonistas y el entorno en el que se mueve, unas islas míticas situadas en el Golfo de Vizcaya, entre el continente y las islas británicas, donde el rey Casmir de Lyonesse, padre de Suldrun, conspira para hacerse con el control completo sobre los diferentes reinos que forman las islas. Los planes y decisiones de Casmir repercuten en muchos acontecimientos y personas, comenzando por la propia Suldrun o el príncipe Aillas de Troicinet, el mago Carfilhiot o Dhrûn, el niño de las hadas... A ver qué tal sigue la historia y qué nos trae...