An Audio-Book Review: Here We Go Again…

Domes of Fire

By David Eddings

Published by National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress

Read by Erik Sandvold


The Book:

This is Book One of a series called The Tamuli, which in turn is a sequel to Mister Eddings’ series, The Elenium. Yes, Mister Eddings had a penchant for giving epic names to his series. Maybe it was to make them sound as though they should be classed with such works as Homer’s Iliad, or perhaps it was just that his personal philosophy was to give epic fantasy series names that were also epic and fantastic. Naming in that fashion certainly does nothing to minimize his stories and does make them memorable, so kudos.

The story picks up a few years after the main story in the Elenium with Sparhawk safely married to Queen Ehlana in a scene of sort-of domestic bliss with their precocious daughter, Danae, who just happens to be the goddess Aphrael in disguise. So situation normal, I guess, except that nothing ever stays normal in literature (because that would be a very short and boring story in the Fantasy genre). All across the world there are various rebellions being fomented that appear to be inspired by the return of mythical and ancient personages and their connections with prophecies. Meanwhile the Trolls have all disappeared from their traditional haunts and seem to have reappeared on the other side of the world, so when the emperor of that side of the world calls for help from the redoubtable Pandion Knight, Sparhawk, he goes along with his wife and daughter, an emissary of the “Church” and about half the cast of characters from the first series and a small army of “Church Knights” to lend and hand and save the world. Along the way they pick up a nation of horse warriors called the Peloi (who seem based on early Mongols, maybe) and a couple legions of giant warriors from the empire they will be travelling through (those last seem to work like tag teams, leaving them slightly vulnerable just in time for the action scenes). So all, in all, it is a pleasant quiet journey across two continents with occasional attacks by a mysterious enemy.

Actually, it is a pretty good story and I enjoyed it, but if I am to be fair, I must note that in spite of attempts to delineate the various characters, the main ones have mostly the same personalities. Even when they are described as being different, their dialogue is interchangeable. They all seem to have the same dry sense of humor and speech mannerisms, unless one is going out of their way to sound different for a few minutes. In all, in spite of having different back stories and being from different cultures, they mostly all sound alike. Have they been spending too much time together? Some having seen each other in years.

Also the cross-cultural society of thieves thing got stretched to the breaking point in this book, being used even where it wasn’t needed and it was somewhat hard to believe that there would be a homogenous under-culture spanning an obviously medieval world complete with recognition signs you could use even when thousands of miles from home. It’s organized crime that surpasses anything even in the modern world.

The characters are definitely too clever by half at times. In spite of finding themselves up against a mysterious adversary (or adversaries), when not actually considering their actual foe, they always know far better than anyone they meet as to how to handle problems. Non one says, “That is not the way we do things here.” Instead, the praise for Sparhawk and Queen Ehlana and their companions is nearly universal and it is they who always know best, even in a culture with which they have no prior experience.

I was also annoyed by the somewhat sexist scenario in which one of Ehlana’s companions, swishes her way through the halls of a palace to distract the guards and other watchers from what is actually going on. Really? None of the guards are gay? Maybe not in that culture, although I wondered about some of the royal ministers she is also meant to distract. None of them are mature enough to be suspicious of such overt activity especially when it is a foreigner? Far less likely.

Even so, I did enjoy the story, but must warn readers that you really do want to read the first series before starting in on this one.


The Audiobook:

Erik Sandvold reads the story very well and really does his best, I feel, to delineate the characters from each other. I did not agree with all his vocal choices. Several of the knight-companions of Sir Sparhawk sound rather dull, even when being clever and Sir Vanion sounds like a particularly crotchety version of Gabby Hayes. He is somewhat older than the others, but he is described as appearing more youthful and energetic than he had been when they last saw him, so the “old man” voice feels really out of place.

These odd vocalisms and funny voices aside, Mister Sandvold is interesting to listen to. Most of his voices are not over the top, save when a character, himself, is intentionally being over the top. I think he might have tried to show a bit more difference in voice between the knights of various orders (who come, for the most part, from different regions, but mostly it sound like the accent of Sparhawk and his fellow Pandions (and the others from that area) versus everyone else and even then it was not so much different accents as vocal mannerisms

So, it’s a good start to a new story about Sir Sparhawk and his companions. We shall have to see how it goes and this edition is read well but it is not without its minor flaws.

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