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Fantasty Friday – Cugel’s Saga

 

Cugel’s Saga by Jack Vance

 

Review byBowden P. (Trey)

 

Since Cugel’s Saga is almost 30 years old, I think I can be fairly liberal with spoilers. The book literally picks right up where Eyes of the Overworld left off – with Cugel on the very beach he started his quest with, though without Firx to encourage him. Instead of repeating his path in Eyes of the Overworld Cugel takes a different route (mainly because people’s memories are long). This odyssey takes him into the employ of a wizard digging for the scales of Sadlark a creature of the Overworld, and provides a Macguffin that is very useful throughout Cugel’s journey.

From digging in a swamp for scales, to a duel of wits with Bunderwal for a position in a merchant house, to a job as worminger (or worm wrangler) on a ship for that merchant house, to mutineer and caravaner, Cugel makes his way back to Almery. Of course, Cugel being Cugel, his desire for wealth, food, comfort and feminine companionship at low prices to free frequently lead him into trouble. Trouble for him, amusement for us.

After reading this and sitting on it for a few days I think I figured out what I like about the book and Cugel – they have some Shakespearean traits. From the dialogue to Cugel seeming an unlikely bastard of Falstaff and Trinculo (the clown from The Tempest). He also begins to become a bit heroic – perhaps in the same style Flashman is heroic with an eye on the larger prize.

It also makes a nice change of pace from Eyes of the Overworld, in that Cugel actually benefits and profits some from his schemes. Some profit, but its nowhere near his targets, still enough to keep him moving along (usually in front of an angry mob) and from abject poverty. He also seems to do his best when he is honest and polite, particularly in his dealings with Facumeil, Phampoun and Iuconnu. He even begins to take on some traits of Odysseus as well in these encounters. Because of this it also reminds me of some of the older fairy tales where the hero does best by being polite, honest and personable. Cugel can do this, and like other fairy tales, he manages to out clever himself periodically.

Anyway, it’s a good book, worth at least 3½ stars. I’d love to see a stage or film adaptation of this, with Harry Anderson in his prime declaiming for all he’s worth.

Likes:

  • Cugel. Like Falstaff, we can laugh at him and with him. And Trinculo, he gets above himself, but keeps things from becoming too grim.
  • Imagery.
  • Characters that were a match for Cugel.

Dislikes:

  • The ending. It felt abrupt, but there was room for a sequel.

Suggested for: Jack Vance fans and fantasy fans.

 

 

 

 

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