Return to Evenmere
Just last week I discovered from an interview Nick Ozment held with the talented James Stoddard that there’s a third Evenmere book. I also learned that Stoddard had revised the second of the two previous books (The False House) to raise it to the standards of the first.
The first meaning The High House, which is among my favorite novels. It’s a house that sort of contains the universe in its myriad passages, attics, and hidden ways, and is a loving homage to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series from the late ’60s and early ’70s. (And no, you wags, not THAT kind of adult. Once upon a time it had to be stressed to readers that fantasy wasn’t just for kids.)
The High House is a wonderful men’s coming of age story. It’s not a child’s story of a boy learning to grow up, it’s a man learning to stand on his own. Main character Carter Anderson has to come to grips with his vanished father, learn how the world works, seek wisdom, overcome heartbreak, find common ground with his estranged brother, etc. And it all happens under a backdrop of mystery with wondrous places and fantastic scenery and beautiful writing and amazing magical tools. I love it.
I enjoyed vast sections of The False House, its immediate sequel, but didn’t like it to the same extent overall. Apparently Stoddard never did either. Many sections in the new release of The False House have been revised and expanded.
In any case, the moment after I read the Black Gate interview I went and ordered Evenmere and the revised The False House. That’s how much I love this series. I mean, I could have put them on a birthday list, because my family knows how impossible I am to buy for. And I ALSO have a huge to-be-read pile and didn’t need to throw anything more on top of it. But no. I ordered ’em.
This series does have its detractors. Some decry the use of anarchists as the bad guys, saying they don’t act like real anarchists. They’re kind of inspired by some anarchists from one of the Ballantine Fantasy books and aren’t meant to resemble any real movement.
The other detraction I’ve read is that the first book doesn’t have many female characters. There are plenty of them in the second book, powerful, interesting, and motivated, but not in the first.
And maybe it’s just me, and because I’m a guy, but I don’t see that as an issue for this story. It’s really a very male story (but not in the mighty thews and heaving bosoms kind of way), and by God, there ought still to be room for some of those. I know men dominated all stories for ages and ages and that wasn’t fair, but that’s not a reason to kick this story down. The High House is about learning to take responsibility and learning to be wise and having to make sacrifices, etc. in a way that men are forced by society to do. It speaks powerfully of our relationships with our fathers and our brothers and spins a great adventure story along the way. My son loved it just as much as I did, but my wife didn’t understand our affection for it. Some stories aren’t intended for everyone.
I suppose I’m especially sensitive to this attack because I sometimes see people knocking The Desert of Souls because it mostly has male characters. Well, yeah, it’s the story of how two men become brother in all-but-blood. It’s a buddy novel. Criticize it about other stuff if you want, but don’t complain that my Arabian buddy novel didn’t have enough women in it, you know? It wasn’t about elephant poaching either, even though elephants have been my favorite animal since I was a little kid and I’m fully in favor of rights to protect them. That’s not what the story was about…