Janny Wurts is as far as I know unique among contemporary fantasy writers in so far as she deviates from the standard High Fantasy model in the opposite direction from the authors of the “New Grit” – while Martin, Abercrombie et al. do their best to make their protagonists appear less heroic and cut them down to a more human size, Janny Wurts, in her massive series The War of Light and Shadow, makes her characters even more Epic, painting them larger than life.
Which is not to say that her characters are in any way one-dimensional, quite to the contrary – all of her primary and many of her secondary characters are nuanced and multi-faceted and are capable of surprising the reader, occasionally even providing moments of genuine psychological insight (when for example one character does not show the expected gratitude when he is saved by another, but instead resents his saviour – a reaction that is very much true to life, given this particular character in his particular situation). But Janny Wurts paints things on a very large canvas, and often her characters appear as more than human – in their strengths as well their weaknesses, their vices as well as their virtues.
Fugitive Prince (which could almost be the title of the whole series, seeing how Arithon, the prince referred to, seems to be on the run through all of it) is the fourth novel in the series, and kicks off the Alliance of Light arc which runs over five substantial volumes (which I’m going to read – or at least plan to – back to back in the next few weeks). In consequence, there is a lot of set-up here, and things move rather slowly at first, gathering some momentum only in the second half. But then, one does not read Epic Fantasy for breakneck action (well, I don’t, in any case) but for inventive world building, deep characters and compelling language, all of which Janny Wurts provides here (as in the rest of the series) in ample measure.