“I think this is the first Kage Baker novel I've read whose jacket description properly captures its feel (though the description for The Anvil of the World comes close). The first paragraph (and the first section of the second paragraph) sound exactly like at least half of the heroic fantasy...”see full review » see other reviews »
Didn’t Like It
“I really liked the beginning and middle of the book. It should have ended long before it actually did. I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, but does anyone else find the ending boring and silly?”see full review » see other reviews »
“I really liked the beginning and middle of the book. It should have ended long before it actually did. I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, but does anyone else find the ending boring and silly? ”Healan B wrote this review Thursday, December 30, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I think this is the first Kage Baker novel I've read whose jacket description properly captures its feel (though the description for The Anvil of the World comes close). The first paragraph (and the first section of the second paragraph) sound exactly like at least half of the heroic fantasy novels being written today, and in broad strokes, this novel follows that very popular story arc. But throughout the story, and coming to the fore at the end, is the sort of wry humanism that is so at odds with most of heroic fantasy, and so trademark to Kage Baker's (and Connie Willis' and Lois McMaster Bujold's) style.
This is the story of how the Master of the Mountain and the Green Saint came to be who they were in The Anvil of the World, making it a prequel of sorts, though both books stand equally well on their own. As in The Anvil of the World, Baker doesn't confine herself to even-length chapters, nor does she stick with one viewpoint; some sections are first-person narrative, one is second-person, and one is third-person with a first-person frame -- though while it isn't always clear who is speaking at first (because they are characters that haven't been introduced yet) Baker is always in control, and the reader is immediately aware that the perspective has shifted and where in the world it has shifted to.
Most of the story revolves around Gard, who will become the Master of the Mountain; the Green Saint isn't born until halfway through the book. Gard is a wonderful character -- despite all the baggage handed him by heroic fantasy convention, he retains a wonderful clarity of purpose: all he wants is the chance to live and be happy, and he will do what seems necessary to make that as likely as possible. He encounters several mentor figures (another fantasy trope) including Balnshik, who we met in The Anvil of the World; he attracts a ragtag bunch of followers, outcasts in the world at large, through his strength of character; and he forges himself (with the help of those mentioned above) into the sort of tool so very common in heroic fantasy: impossibly skilled at everything he sets his hand to, be it conventional fighting (with any weapon) or magic.
But just as his journey appears to be veering too far into teen boy wish-fulfillment, Baker grounds it yet again in his simple desire for happiness. He bests his enemies not to make the world a better place, but simply to get himself and those he loves out of harms way; that accomplished, he takes whatever jobs come to hand (I particularly enjoyed his turn as an actor) to keep food on the table and a roof over his head. If I have one quibble, it's that the Green Saint was not given as much depth as Gard, and their romance was of the "love at first sight" variety. But while that quibble was strong enough that I couldn't love this volume quite as much as The Anvil of the World, The House of the Stag is still one of the best heroic fantasy novels I've read in a long time.”
“Every once in a while you come across a book that raises the bar, that blows the competition out of the water. Some years back, that book was Harry Potter (or books, to be more accurate); now, Kage Baker’s The House of the Stag has done what few books can ever do.
The House of the Stag is a modern fairytale that chronicles the struggle of a young man after his people, the Yendri, are invaded by a barbaric, horseback-riding people called the Riders. As his people are rounded up and killed or turned into slaves, a strange figure appears called the Star, who takes on the role of a prophet. But Gard refuses to accept the “sit and do nothing” stance of the Star and takes matters into his own hands. When his actions get him accused as a murderer by his own people, he finds himself exiled and flung out into the wider, more dangerous world beyond. There he discovers new cultures and customs, and important information about his past, all while vowing to gain the power and influence he needs to destroy the Riders once and for all and free his people forever.
Baker’s novel is an astonishing fantasy tale, with rich detail, fantastic world building, enjoyable, complex characters, and a unique postmodern structure that is as readily aware of its fairytale roots as it is of its emotionally impacted literary attention to issues of (post)colonialism, slavery, and racism. That’s a mouthful, for sure, but The House of the Stag deserves such long-winded praise. This book influenced me so much that I actually used it for a second senior thesis during my final quarter at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I now regret having never read anything else by Ms. Baker, because her writing is impeccable, her characters are realistically flawed, and her world is stunning in its design. You can’t ask for much more in a stand alone fantasy novel.
The most difficult thing about reviewing this book is trying to find the cons of Baker’s story. I loved the book from start to finish, which leaves me with only one complaint: the chapters are too long. A pointless complaint? Yes, but to say that any book is perfect is to tell a lie. The House of the Stag is not a perfect novel, but it is certainly close.
The House of the Stag is the kind of novel for anyone who wants something more in their fantasy. This is not your typical tale of elves and magic, talking animals. It’s a modernized fairytale replete with the escapist power of epic fantasy. As such, lovers of virtually any kind of fantasy should enjoy The House of the Stag. Baker’s book is, in my opinion, a one of a kind fantasy treat.”
“Gard grows up in a gentle society, unsophisticated-- and defenseless when the Riders come and enslave his people. Until the Star comes to help... a mix of hard edged fantasy, fable, and fairy tale, this is Kage Baker at her best! Gard is an unforgettable character!”Carol R wrote this review Tuesday, June 16, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This book comes AFTER Anvil of the World, but now that I've read it, it seems like a prequel. And the fascinating world of half-demon Ermenwyr and the People of the Sun (Anvil of the World) might make more sense if you read about Ermenwyr's father Gard (The House of the Stag), and how he came from a tribe of quiet forest people, survived a vicious gladiator school to rule a much-feared mountain kingdom. At least, I'm going to go back and read Anvil of the World again. :-)”Roberta J wrote this review Tuesday, September 23, 2008. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No