As previously noted (a long time ago, it seems), C J Cherryh (not to be confused with C J Cregg) is a favourite author of one of my favourite authors (Stephen Donaldson) – and this simple fact is one main reason I bought this book (in Mumbai). And I’m glad I did.
The novel is written with a sort of feminine grace that treads a fine line between readability and poetry and archaism (that would be a Y-shape rather than a line, then). The story concerns a young man called into existence by an aging wizard for some undefined purpose. Tristen, as this ‘Shaping’ is named, is a mystery as much to himself as to those he encounters later on. The characters’ efforts to pick away at this mystery form the major part of the plot.
The land Tristen discovers consists of villages and superstition, nobility and royalty, religious sects and intolerance. For fantasy it’s a pretty standard quasi-mediaeval English kind of world – except it’s well-drawn and understated (by virtue of there being very little magic around). It’s also more Welsh than English, with names like Cefwyn and Ynefel.
In some ways, the writing reminded me of Frank Herbert: the characters are constantly analysing what’s going on and their thoughts often have that ‘wheels within wheels within wheels’ quality. The book’s main fault is that it has too much of this. Pages are spent on these deliberations – and are then recapitulated when the protagonists learn something new.
Still, this is one of the better fantasies I’ve read, and I want to read more by this author.
Another entry in the lexicon.
ca·du·ci·ty /kəˈdusɪti, -ˈdyu-/
1. the infirmity or weakness of old age; senility.
2. frailty; transitoriness: the caducity of life.
[Origin: 1760-1770; < F caducité, equiv. to caduc caducous + -ité -ity]
One more definition following on sequaciously from the previous one.
1. following with smooth or logical regularity.
2. Archaic. following, imitating, or serving another person, esp. unreasoningly.
[Origin: 1630-40; < L sequāci- (s. of sequāx) following (akin to sequī to follow) + -ous]
The word I have noted down is actually ‘fuligin’. I can’t find any definitions of that exactly, but here is the denotation of ‘fuliginous’. And I can’t remember the context I read the word in, so I can only assume that this is relevant.
Main Entry: fu·lig·i·nous
Etymology: Late Latin fuliginosus, from Latin fuligin-, fuligo soot; akin to Lithuanian dūlis cloud, vapor, and probably to Latin fumus smoke – more at fume
1 a: sooty b: obscure, murky
2: having a dark or dusky color
– fu·lig·i·nous·ly adverb
More recondite lexemes.
Stil”la*to*ry, n.; pl. -ries. [From Still, for distill. Cf. Still, n., and Distillatory, a.] 1. An alembic; a vessel for distillation. [R.] –Bacon.
2. A laboratory; a place or room in which distillation is performed. [R.] –Dr. H. More. –Sir H. Wotton.
Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary quoted on Dictionary.com.
This word appears in Fatal Revenant in the form ‘unassoiled’.
TRANSITIVE VERB: Inflected forms: as·soiled, as·soil·ing, as·soils
Archaic 1. To absolve; pardon. 2. To atone for.
ETYMOLOGY: Middle English assoilen, from Old French assoldre, assoil-, from Latin absolvere, to set free : ab-, away; see ab-1 + solvere, to loosen; see leu- in Appendix I.
OTHER FORMS: as·soilment -NOUN
One more Stephen R Donaldsonism.
a wild mustard, Brassica kaber, having lobed, ovate leaves and clusters of small, yellow flowers, often troublesome as a weed in grainfields.
[Origin: bef. 1000; ME cherlok, OE cerlic < ?]