Lord Valentine’s Castle (Book 1 in the Majipoor Cycle)
By Robert Silverberg; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
19.5 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Juggling / Quests / Aliens /
And then after walking all day through a golden haze of humid warmth that gathered about him like fine wet fleece, Valentine came to a great ridge of outcropping white stone overlooking the city of Pidruid. It was the provincial capital, sprawling and splendid, the biggest city he had come upon since-since?-the biggest in a long while of wandering, at any rate.
There he halted, finding a seat at the edge of the soft, crumbling white ridge, digging his booted feet into the flaking ragged stone, and he sat there staring down at Pidruid, blinking as though newly out of sleep. On this summer day twilight was still some hours away, and the sun hung high to the southwest beyond Pidruid, out over the Great Sea. I will rest here for a while, Valentine thought, and then I will go down into Pidruid and find lodging for the night.
As he rested he heard pebbles tumbling past him from a higher point on the ridge. Unhurriedly he looked back the way he had come. A young herdsman had appeared, a boy with straw-colored hair and a freckled face, leading a train of fifteen or twenty mounts down the hill road. They were fat sleek purple-skinned beasts, obviously well looked after. The boy’s own mount looked older and less plump, a wise and toughened creature.
“Hoy!” he called down to Valentine. “Where are you bound?”
“Pidruid. And you?”
“The same. Bringing these mounts to market. Thirsty work it is, too. Do you have wine?”
“Some,” Valentine said. He tapped the flask at his hip, where a fiercer man might wear a weapon. “Good red mid-country wine. I’ll be sorry to see the last of it.”
Thus are we introduced to Valentine, a gentle man who has little memory of his past and surprising lapses about the world around him. As Valentine follows Shanamir into the town, he encounters a band of jugglers who are in town to perform during the visit of the planet’s highest official, the Coronal. Valentine becomes their apprentice and is unexpectedly launched on an epic quest in which he gathers companions who will help him achieve a seemingly impossible goal.
The fact that Valentine doesn’t know who he is, where he comes from, or any other personal details is a nice story device which helps us to learn about life on Majipoor. A gigantic planet of strange beauty and wonder, Majipoor contains 20 billion people of a variety of races: humans; the three-eyed Liimans; sea-dragons; four-armed Skandars; and many more including an aboriginal group of original inhabitants aptly known as Shapeshifters. As well, there is a complex system of government with a fascinating set of checks and balances, including disciplines or encouragements sent in dreams by either the gentle Lady or the fiercer King of Dreams.
In this richly imagined setting, Valentine not only learns about his world but about himself and his proper place in it, which eventually has consequences on a planet-wide scale. Robert Silverberg’s writing and imagination soar with nary a false step. It is truly a extraordinary tale, well told.
The story is enhanced by Stefan Rudnicki’s nuanced reading. For a narrator with such a deep voice, Rudnicki is able to tweak his reading to provide a wide range of characters from the dour Skandars to more delicate female characters. This book is unabridged and, although far from the gigantic tomes that current fantasy writers often produce, is still hefty enough to make the audio version 19 hours long. That seems intimidating but believe me when I tell you that the story is absorbing enough, wondrous enough, and adventurous enough to keep you interested the entire time. Highly recommended.
Posted by Julie D.