Visions of Paradise

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Innkeeper's Song

There is a lot to like about Peter Beagle’s novel The Innkeeper’s Song, but there are also some flaws in it which temper my recommendation a bit. As the title indicates, the story takes place at an inn set in a typical medieval-type fantasy world. Several people converge on the inn one summer, initiating a series of events which climax in the virtual destruction of the inn. The characters in the novel include:

• Nyatenari, a female escapee from a convent who is sought by three assassins since nobody is permitted to ever leave the convent;
• Lal, a female warrior who has a very close, if slightly mysterious, relationship with Nyatenari;
• Lukassa, a young woman who drowned in the novel’s opening sequence but was somehow returned to life by Lal;
• Tunzi, Lukassa’s lover who saw her drown and immediately left home to follow her and Lal;
• a changeling who is often a fox, but at times becomes a human;
• Karsh, the fat, disagreeable owner of the inn who distrusts Nyatenari and Lal the instant they arrive at his inn, but he is too weak to refuse them lodging;
• Rosseth, an orphan boy who has worked at the inn his entire life;
• an aging wizard who was the teacher of Nyatenari and Lal, and whose death is sought by a younger, more powerful wizard.

Several storylines intertwine in The Innkeeper’s Song: the three assassins show up at the inn intending to kill Nyatenari; Lal and Nyatenari seek the young wizard in an attempt to save the life of their mentor; Tunzi is so love-smitten he continually tries to regain Lukassa’s love even though the formerly-dead woman does not recognize him at all; the young wizard shows up at the inn planning to kill the old wizard.

The book is told in the form of dozens of short chapters, each from the point of view of a different character, so we get multiple colorings on what is taking place. The characters are mostly interesting, with the exception of the fox, and the storylines move along nicely.

What slows the book down is long passages where Beagle seems so enamored with the writing itself that nothing happens for several pages at a time, neither plot nor character development. These are primarily in the chapters narrated by the fox and Lukassa. I found my eyes glazing over those passages, but fortunately they were a small portion of what otherwise was a very interesting book. The climactic scene includes considerable hand-waving, but that is almost expected in a book about wizards and it did not detract from the power of that scene.

Several decades ago I read the collection Giant Bones, which were novelettes set in the world of The Innkeeper’s Song. I enjoyed the novel enough that I hope to go back and reread the collection again.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home