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Jacqueline Carey
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Three Hearts and Three Lions (Fantasy Masterworks 38) - Poul Anderson This book is often heralded as one of the forebears of the fantasy genre, though it usually eclipsed by Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, which was published little more than a year later.

There were parts of Three Hearts and Three Lions where I was genuinely interested in what was happening, and where I was excited to see what would happen next. I also enjoyed the juxtaposition between Holger's modern views and the advances of science with the pseudo-Carolingian world. Not to mention the tongue-in-cheek humour throughout. On top of that, Anderson's descriptive writing was first-class. Some of the ways he described the Middle World left me breathless.

But, sadly, there was much more I didn't like about the book.

Firstly, the dialect. Different characters speak in different dialects and (especially in the case of Hugi) I often found myself jolted out of the story whilst I attempted to translate the dialogue. This became less of an issue as the book went on, because I got used to it, but at the beginning it was a bit of a nightmare.

The plot felt rather episodic in nature, much like the 'monster of the week' device that you often see on television shows as filler. It seemed that Holger and his friends spent a lot of the time bouncing from foe to foe. This perhaps wouldn't have been a bad thing, necessarily, but I felt that the monsters/enemies were (with the exception of the troll) defeated too swiftly and too easily. At no point in time did I find myself fearing for Holger's life. At no point did I think that he wasn't going to succeed.

Which brings me to the ending. I don't know if it's just me, but the ending of Three Hearts and Three Lions is one of the most disappointing I have ever read. It reaches the moment before the final confrontation, the moment the whole book has been leading up to... and then we're back with the narrator and the 'battle' is summarised in a paragraph or two of Holger's speech. I actually felt kind of cheated, though I can see the reasons why Anderson might have told it this way.

Although this wasn't a book I enjoyed over-much, I feel that anyone with a keen interest in the fantasy genre should read it at least once. It is one of the books that has had a huge influence on the genre (a fact that can be seen through the fact that a lot of what happens in the book may seem cliché or generic nowadays) and is part of its history. For this reason, rather than anything I got from the reading experience itself, I am glad I read it.