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Tolkien & Beyond: Stackpole's Standalone Novels

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Michael A. Stackpole is probably best known for his various fantasy and science fiction series, such as the DragonCrown War Cycle, the Warrior Trilogy, and the Star Wars X-Wing Series. These are all great series, but I’m a particular fan of his standalone novels: Once a Hero and Talion: Revenant. What I love about Stackpole is the incredible artistry and detail that he puts into his books. Each new book is set in a completely new and different world, worlds with vibrant cultures! This coupled with captivating stories and complex characters has led me to rank Once a Hero and Talion: Revenant among my favorite books.

In Once a Hero, Neal Custos Sylvanii is the hero, of both in his own time and 500 years later. Stackpole alternates time periods with each chapter, beginning with Neal’s story, then switching to the story of Genevera, the woman who brings Neal back to life, 500 years after Neal’s life. In the beginning of Neal’s tale, we’re introduced to the rich culture that Stackpole has created. Alongside the tale of empires being overthrown and new alliances being created, there is forbidden romance thrown in. But this romance is interesting because Stackpole’s creation of a culture that forbids Neal to be with the woman he loves echoes a more extreme version of our own world’s taboos on interracial relationships. In his travels, Neal befriends an Elfish man, Aarundul, and years later he meets Aarundel’s sister, Larissa, who is forbidden to Neal in more than one way. Not only is she married, but male humans are not allowed to even touch female elves. Should Neal touch any female elf, even to save her life, he would be killed and she would be disgraced. The tension between the races as well as the tragic love between Neal and Larissa are played out in a beautiful dance, a dance that they have to perform at Aarundel’s wedding, as the best man and maid of honor. Their task is made difficult – almost impossible – by the limitation of absolutely no contact. Stackpole makes the world the Neal lives in seem so real – as if it is part of our own history, a history with magic and elves and mystical creatures.

Talion: Revenant is the story of Nolan, a boy orphaned by a civil war, who works his way up the ranks of the Talions – the justice keepers of the Shattered Empire. Nolan joins the highest rank of Talions: Justices. Justices are the select, given lethal magic and fighting skills. Like Once a Hero, Nolan’s story is told from various periods in his life. Stackpole alternates between the adult Nolan – a fully fledged Talion – and a younger Nolan, training to become a Talion. This is a story of Nolan coming of age, learning of true justice, and coming to terms with his family’s death. His hardest trial comes when his Master assigns Nolan to protect the very king who killed his family. Once again, Stackpole paints a rich new culture for Nolan’s tale.

For over a decade this fantastic tales have been left as standalones, but hopefully Stackpole’s fans can change that! On his website, Stackpole announced that he will strike a deal with his fans: now that Talion: Revenant is available as an ebook, when the digital version sells 10,000 copies, he will write a sequel. So if, like me, you’re a fan of Stackpole, and want a Talion sequel, but you don’t have your own copy of the book, buy the digital version and help the sales reach 10,000!

–Alyssa Krueger


Written by whitney teal

April 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I really do like how excited about fantasy books you seem. I’m sure I’ll be reading a few fantasy novels here and there (perhaps not of the magical variety) simply because you’re actually getting me excited about certain books in the genre. Keep up the impassioned writing!


    April 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm

  2. Thanks! I hope you do read some fantasy novels, they’re awesome! Stackpole is great to start off with – especially Talion: Revenant. But some of my other favorite authors are Terry Brooks and Brandon Sanderson.


    April 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm

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