November 12, 2004

The Cheysuli Series

The First of an Eight Book Series by Jennifer Roberson
(Thanks to Fantastic Fiction Images for the image.)

It was a long time ago when I had the time to devour an 8-book series like Jennifer Roberson's Chronicles of the Cheysuli. This is one of those series where it looks like the author was really inspired beyond just one book. There was a really good trilogy here in the first three books, then the quality kinda dropped through the floor for me (maybe the publisher asked for more books, and the creative well was dry).

The idea here is that there are three races in this fantasy world: humans, cheysuli and ihlini. The cheysuli people all have a single unique "familiar" somewhere in the world, an animal with which they can form a telepathic bond, and the cheysuli can learn to change shape into that animal at will. The ihlini (I kept thinking of the University of Illinois mascot when I was reading this) are their eternal enemies, and they're great at magic.

The two races are fighting to either complete or prevent an old prophecy (and nobody quite seems to agree on how to interpret it), somewhat along the lines of the (much worse) Belgariad. I thought a lot of the plot twists were pretty clever, and I was a little shocked by the graphic nature of some scenes (i.e. torture). Unfortunately, the clever ihlini bad guys have this problem where they like to explain their whole plot to the hero, then leave him or her in a situation where they can escape, come back, and kill the bad guy. Haven't they seen any James Bond movies or old Batman episodes?

The story is told from a variety of different points of view (including a strong, but sometimes annoyingly hypocritical, female character named Alix), and I like that aspect of it. Each side has convincing and heartfelt rationalizations for their actions, even though sometimes they have to be stupid to keep the plot moving. If you can find this in a used bookstore (there are now omnibus editions, I think, so four sets of two books each), the first three books are a cut above your standard sword-and-sorcery fare.

Posted by Observer at November 12, 2004 03:04 PM

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When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."

-- From The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord at eviloverlord_com-lists-overlord_html

Posted by: Seattle Astronomer on November 12, 2004 04:16 PM

But more seriously, this is not a series I have ever read. Was there anything worth reading in the last 5 books (e.g number 7 was a gem) and do the first three serve as a complete story?

Posted by: Seattle Astronomer on November 12, 2004 04:18 PM

Wow, talk about damning with faint praise. This is the kind of review that makes me 100% sure I won't try this series or author.

Posted by: Humbaba on November 12, 2004 05:08 PM

The first trilogy is probably in the top 25% of all fantasy series I've read. The other five books are just there. I probably complained a little too much about the first trilogy without describing more why I liked it. It really had a good, unpredictable, rich plot. Likeable characters and neat situations.

Posted by: Observer on November 12, 2004 08:04 PM

Right. Anytime you say something is in the top 25% of all crap, I won't read it.

Top 5 or 10%, worth looking into. 75th percentile, that's a C in my book.

Posted by: Humbaba on November 13, 2004 12:07 AM

(Note: Above comment remarkably coherent for someone as loaded as I currently am)

Posted by: Humbaba on November 13, 2004 12:08 AM

Well, if I said I just absolutely loved everything, I would be a pretty useless reviewer. Maybe I need to review some things I hate so you can see the difference.

Posted by: Observer on November 13, 2004 07:03 AM

It's more that I personally consider 90% of fantasy to be craptacular, so if it's not in the top 10%, it's not worth it.

Plus, our correlation factor isn't exactly 100%, (cough covenant cough) so I automatically downgrade your reviews.

I tell you, there are few things in this world better than finding a book or film reviewer with nearly 100% correlation with ones own views.

Posted by: Humbaba on November 13, 2004 09:42 AM

Amen to that, Hummer. There is also the unusual case of being 100% opposed to someone else so that you can use their reviews as a reverse barometer (which is the case with me and some of the local film reviewers).

Posted by: Seattle Astronomer on November 15, 2004 10:41 AM

Oh sure, I've never found a consistent film reviewer. Ebert is ok, but I haven't looked that hard. The groupthink movie ratings at IMDb and Netflix are pretty useless, too.

As for reverse reviewers, I figure if I explain my biases enough, people can map my tastes onto their own pretty well. For example, when Humbaba asked me last night whether he should read Forge of God or Serpent Mage, I recommended Serpent Mage. I figure he'll decide to read Forge of God based on that. Serves him right, the stubborn bastard.

Posted by: Observer on November 15, 2004 10:54 AM

My brother has found a film reviewer he finds reliable in a perverse sense. For a certain genre (sci-fi stuff), it's 100% anticorrelation. If the reviewer likes something, my brother hates it, and vice versa.

Posted by: Feff on November 15, 2004 10:58 AM

i love the Cheysuli books! there are going to be 3 more coming out sometime relatively soon that fit into the existing series.

Posted by: Skuggi on July 12, 2005 09:05 PM

To tell you the truth I loved the series I have read all of the books on the chronicles of the Cheysuli and I will definitely read them again I love the plots and how it thickens with each book

Posted by: Kenyasha on February 23, 2006 02:15 AM