In the classic spirit of epic fantasy comes this glittering saga of a young girl who learns she possesses an uncanny gift — and is destined to use it to save her world from a terrifying evil.
Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She doesn't yet know she has inherited a powerful gift, one that marks her as a member of the noble School of Pellinor and enables her to see the world as no other can. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true identity and extraordinary destiny unfold. Now, she and her mysterious teacher must embark on a treacherous, uncertain journey through a time and place where the forces of darkness wield an otherworldly terror.
The first book in a quartet, Alison Croggon's epic about Maerad and her remarkable yet dangerous gift is a beautiful, unforgettable tale. Presented as a new translation of an ancient text, THE NAMING evokes the rich and complex landscape of Annar, a legendary world just waiting to be discovered.
The Elliott Review:
I was somewhat scared to read this book due to the mention of it being a part of the "classic epic fantasy" genre. I love fantasy just as much as the next paranormal addict, but there is just something about reading Tolkien that kind of grates on my nerves. I loved Lord of the Rings, but that was only because I broke my rule and watched the movie first. The Naming does indeed hold true to the dictates of epic fantasy, both the things I love about it as well as the things I ... don't so much love about it. Okay, deep breath.
The world-building in this story is phenomenal. The world that Maerad and her companions inhabit is very deeply developed and intricately planned down to the last detail. There are several appendices detailing the history of this world, as well as a pronunciation guide. This is, for me, both a curse and a blessing. I love that the world is believable and well thought-out, but I (personally) am not in love in intricate descriptions seemingly for the sake of description. Yes, I do want to have a general idea of a character's surrounding world, but I do not feel a deep-seated desire to hear about the appearance of every cloud of mist or dew dropping off a blade of grass. That is a complaint I have about Tolkien, so those of you who love Tolkien will love this about this book!
What caused me to enjoy this book despite the issues I have with the genre was character development. Maerad is believable and likeable, and I loved seeing her discover so much about herself in this first book. She has complex emotions, but there is no resort to melodrama here. She stands up to her circumstances admirably and bravely and without any unnecessary blubbering.
And Cadvan! I love the character of Cadvan. He has a dark, shadowy past and angst-filled background story, yet (again) this is understated and thus more powerful. I'm not really sure what his role in the story will be at this point. I can't tell if he will be merely Maerad's teacher throughout or if they will, in time, develop a romantic relationship. Since I've already started to massively love him, I really hope that there is some romance ... even though he is a lot older than Maerad.
All in all, I would recommend this book. It's definitely an intellectual commitment since it's so long, but it is an intelligent story that is rare. The writing style is stately and precise. This story isn't necessarily "sexy," so people aren't going crazy over it, but it's worth a read for sure.
Alison Croggon discusses the series: