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The Worm Ouroboros

The Worm Ouroboros - E.R. Eddison, Keith Henderson DNF at 55%.

The author uses archaic words as if they are going out of style… oops, they did go out of style. This is probably the first book ever where I liked the overly wordy descriptions of everything over dialogs for the simple reason that unlike dialogs the descriptions sometimes contain words still in use in modern English. I strongly suspect it was an oversight. I complain about dialog, but please do not start me on poetry and songs. While dialogs use words which were considered archaic even before Shakespeare was born, the poetry consists exclusively of words from the dawn of English language.

Stop right here. You can forget everything I just said about using archaic words in dialogs and songs. I give my humble apologies to the author; it was not fair. Somewhere close to the middle of the book I stumbled upon the first letter written which shook my strong conviction to continue reading. A little later there was another letter which solved the problem of whether to continue reading for me. It was a report written by a general to his king about 3 pages long. The reason I apologized in the beginning of the paragraph? I have seen nothing while reading dialogs and poetry; these letters are the high point of archaic word use. How bad was it? I already mentioned the length of the report; there was only one familiar word I found in there – “and”. To be fair, it was used several times.

At this point I realized enough is enough and DNF is in order. I am quite surprised by the high ratings this novel received because from my understanding there are only three types of people who would find this reading enjoyable and not hard physical labor like us, the low class peons.

• Linguists who study the history of English language
• People who lived on British Islands around the time Julius Caesar’s army made its first landing in there
• Masochist people. I do not mean BDSM-light of 50 Shades of Gray type; I am talking hardcore masochism here.

It is not that everybody wrote like this at the time of publication. Charles Dickens created his classics way before the book, the father of sword-and-sorcery Robert E. Howard wrote shortly after, as well as the father of epic fantasy J.R.R. Tolkien. Dear authors above, you are geniuses for using the language which stood the test of time and will continue doing so. Some modern fantasy writers mentioned they considered using archaic language to add more authenticity to the world. Ladies and gentlemen, you have my greatest respect for not doing it.

People who loved the book are unified in praising the flow of the language. I agree with this, but let as remove the flow and what do we have left with? One-dimensional characters written in black and white with a very occasional shade of gray in them. Old-fashioned plot where low people die in thousands to serve their kings who are protected by the plot armor thick enough to withstand a direct nuclear hit and who do not care about their subjects and leave them to take care of themselves during an enemy invasion – I will talk about this later. The ending - this one deserves a very special explanation.

Since the time I finished The Dark Tower by Stephen King I kept calling its ending the worst in the history of fantasy literature. I now have something to say. Dear Mr. King, if you read this please accept my humblest apologies for badmouthing your epic. Its ending is by no means the worst; it is only the second worst. The dubious honor goes to The Worm Ouroboros. How do I know the ending if I DNFed it, you ask? I read the plot synopsis in Wikipedia and boy, am I glad I did not finish the book!!! I would have been be in the state of murderous rage had I done it. Even with what I did read I want this time of my life back.

At this point I finally came to the plot discussion. One of the origins of fantasy genre came from chivalric romances. At one point I was curious about it and look thorough some of them. One very noticeable feature of them is complete abandoning of some very significant subplots, or even main plot in extreme cases. This is exactly the case here. As a result you can forget reading prologue and a couple of lines in the first two chapters as they have no bearings on the further development.

So a major war just ended with the greatest burden of it carried by Demons (good guys). The ambitious kings of Witches (bad guys) who mostly hid behind the backs of Demon army decided it would be a good time to grab some land from Demons considering the fact that their own army remained largely intact. A duel between champions of both sides is fought and the king of Witches – their champion – is slain. Demons won and happily went home. The new Witches king knew some of the forbidden magic using which he destroyed the majority of Demons fleet before they reached the shore.

Out of three main Demon brothers (they are not called kings, but for all practical purposes they are) only two survived. Upon reaching their homeland after some adventures the first brother sees a dream telling him to go to a far unexplored land in the middle of nowhere to rescue his lost relative. Get ready, now comes the fun part and the reason why I gave away so much of the plot. Two brothers and their cousin – the best country generals – take the remaining fleet except the ship being repaired and part of the army and set off in search of one guy right before the expected invasion of Witches. How do you like that?

All of their ships are promptly sunk and their army is promptly destroyed (who ever thought splitting the army force right in front of invasion was good idea?) This was another of my biggest problem. Simple grunts get killed left and right and nobody gave a damn about them. The main guys were always the only survivors. Is it wrong for me to feel pity for low people dying at the whim of their supposedly good kings?

Enough of my ranting. I learned a valuable lesson: the majority of forgotten books are forgotten for a reason. I kept reading and hoped I would be able to give 2.5 stars to the book as the plot - while silly - was strangely fascinating and it did move along despite endless large descriptions. Unfortunately it was not meant to be as I do not give anything other than 1 star to a DNFed book.