Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Review: The Forest of Peldain

Book Review: 'The Forest of Peldain' by Barrington J. Bayley

3 / 5 Stars

‘The Forest of Peldain’ (223 pp) is DAW Book No. 640, published in August, 1985, with cover artwork by Ken W. Kelly.

On the water word of Thelessa, mankind is restricted to living on the Hundred Isles. Although there are rebellious islands whose tribes must periodically be subdued, overall, life under the Monarchy of King Krassos is pleasant, resembling the uncomplicated civilization of Earth’s Polynesian peoples.

But King Krassos of Arelia yearns for some signal achievement to define his reign. When a man named Askon Octrago visits the throne room, claiming to be a prince from the island of Peldain, King Krassos takes notice. For Peldain is the largest of the isles on Thelessa………but also the deadliest. Just meters past its shoreline is an immense forest made up of carnivorous plants…..plants such as the Trip-root…...the Stranglevine…..the Fallpit……the Mangrab Tree…..and the Dartthorn……

Octrago claims that he has traversed the dangers of the Forest of Peldain and survived…….and he wants King Krassos to furnish an expeditionary force, with which Octrago will return to Peldain, reclaim the throne, and pledge fealty to Krassos.

The thought of having the largest island on Thelessa under his realm is too attractive for Krassos to resist. He orders a force of several thousand men to be assembled and transported to Peldain. Leading the force is Lord Vorduthe, the most capable officer in Arelia.

In due course, the Arelian fleet disembarks on the shore of Peldain and its soldiers, wielding shield and sword, make preparations to venture into the Forest. Lord Vorduthe, aware of the stories of the hazardous plants, has prepared by incorporating flamethrower carts into his invasion force.

But Vorduthe has misgivings over the truth of Askon Octgrago’s story…..and as the Arelian force begins its foray, Vorduthe and his men will discover that the Forest of Peldain contains horrors far worse than those described by Octrago…….

I’ve read a number of sf novels by Barrington Bayley, and this one, like those others, has a clean, flowing narrative style. Its first half is really more of a horror novel than sf. The latter half of the narrative does realign itself into sf themes………..I won’t disclose any spoilers, but this section of the novel does seem a bit contrived.

But overall, ‘The Forest of Peldain’ is a very readable novel from a writer who often is absent from lists of the better sf authors of the 70s and 80s, but nonetheless probably deserves to be present and accounted for.

1 comment:

Ilian Dager said...

Thanks for the recc, not familiar with him.