The Shining Ones
By David Eddings
Published by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress
Read by Erik Sandvold
This is the middle volume of the trilogy entitled The Tamuli which, in turn, is a sequel to The Elenium. In the first book, Sir Sparhawk and his companions, his wife, Queen Ehlana, a member of the Church Heirarchy, a master thief and several others responded to a request for help from the Tamul Empire a continent away from their home. They brought a fair-sized army with them although the army seems to blend into the background most of the time until needed in battle. In all it’s a fairly mixed bunch from most levels of the Elenic society.
Now that they have arrived in the capital of the Tamul Empire and pretty much established themselves in a convenient castle that just happened to be there waiting for them, they are helping he emperor in a war against his own government while they are all simultaneously under attack from a mysterious enemy who apparently had been attacking them throughout the first series, but they just did not know it due to having misidentified who the true enemy was.
Does this sound complex and possibly a bit unlikely? Hold on… it grows more so. I won’t go into the grand details because it gives it all away and I think one of the biggest problems is that there is a goddess (who just happens to also be the daughter of Sparhawk and Ehlana) out manipulating everything in her divine and probably benevolent way. It is a bad case of deus ex machina in exteme so that the little goddess pretty much handles everything until the story demands a complication in which case she suddenly explains that whatever it is they need does not work that way so Sparhawk is required to retried the all-powerful gemstone, the Bheliom from wherever it was hidden so that he can do whatever it is even a goddess cannot do. The only drama comes from not properly identifying their enemy (which is resolved in this book) and miscalculating what happens next.
Eventually they run into a race of people who can glow in the dark and destroy enemies with a touch… You know what? This gets harder to swallow the more I try to explain it.
Strangely enough I actually enjoyed this book… most of the time. It suffers from some technical flaws, though. For example nearly all the characters have the same speech patterns and the same dry sense of humor. They talk alike, they deliver a joke identically, so if it were not for the dialogue tags you might never know who was speaking.
However, as unlikely as the story seems when you try to write a synopsis, it is fairly engaging and the reader can overlook the flaws although it helps if you read and enjoyed the first trilogy.
Erik Sandvold has his strengths and weaknesses as a reader. Most of the time, when he is not trying to hard, he puts in a solid performance, but he suffers from a tendency to resort to my arch-nemesis… Funny Voices. Curse you, Funny Voices!
Sparhawk and most of the characters from the first series are good, although some of his knightly companions sound less than intelligent when he applies his vocal talent to them, and the preceptor of Sparhawk’s order of knights sounds like a feeble and crotchety old man. Vanion IS old, but several times he is described as using a “Parade” voice which means he can shout over a crowd. The voice Mister Sandvold chose for him does not match up.
The worst vocal choice, however, had to be the annoyingly airy-fairy voices he uses for the Shining Ones (whose voices supposedly are reverberant). They sound like they are on a diet of heavy drugs and are all too mellowed out. It was hard to listen to that.
IN spite of my critique, however, the story kept me engaged and the reading was not as bad as some I have listened to recently. At least I could tell all the characters apart. If you read or listened to the first book and liked it, it is definitely worth continuing on.