14. Derleth, August. The Shield of the Valiant (Sac Prairie Saga, v. ) (511 p.)
15. Emery, Clayton. Whispering Woods (Magic, the Gathering) (294 p.)
16. Emery, Clayton. Shattered Chains (Magic, the Gathering) (278 p.)
March total: 1,519 pages
2012 total: 4,443 pages
Book 1 of Lyonesse (a.k.a. "Suldrun's Garden") is Vancian fantasy, and therefore well-written, except the story's flow keeps getting undercut and broken up by large larks off on various tangents. It succeeds at coming off as a history of a particular time period of a (fictional) island cluster, but if anything it succeeds too well, as large chunks of it feel like the ramblings of a history professor who doesn't have his notes organized properly--those parts bored me stiff and made me want to give up on reading this. The adventures, quests, conflict, escapes, etc. are where the meat of the story is, and that's what I enjoyed the most; I would've much preferred a book with just that.
The Shield of the Valiant is one of the books August Derleth was actually famous for amongst the general population, before he became known almost solely for his work with H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. His Sac Prairie books are set at various times in the history of a small Wisconsin town (so that I didn't need to have read the others to understand this one), and they're basically slice of life/non-genre fiction. This one (written in 1947) is set from 1937-1941 and has a strong religious undercurrent (though not as in-your-face as that sounds, more that many--but not all--of the characters are Catholic and that drives some of the interactions)--but a much stronger current in the story is the evils of when small-town gossip gets out of hand. This is about as far outside my normal reading comfort zone as I'm likely to go, and it took me forever to slog through this one. It was well-written, it just plodded along at a glacial pace that I'm not used to, and that made it hard to read in the small chunks of time I usually have available. One quirk that threw me out of the story every time it came up (and it kept coming up) was when one of the characters veered off into being a self-insertion/Mary Sue character--a struggling author who's been having a correspondence with an author from out east with the intials "H.P.L.", and gets depressed and reads through all of the letters again when he hears that "H.P.L." has died. I get the joke, but was that trip really necessary? If not for that, the character wouldn't have been such an obvious self-insertion, and the book would have been that much more enjoyable as a result
With two deep & heavy tomes on my reading list, I needed some brain candy on the side and started reading through Emery's Magic: The Gathering trilogy, featuring Gull the Woodcutter and his sister, Greensleeves the Druid. Not much below the surface of these, but they're decent, harmless fun, and by now have become a nostalgic flashback to the heady days of 3rd Edition M:tG (and before), with mentions of lots of the cards that were popular back then.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf