Thursday, March 24, 2011

Summa Elvetica

From Goodreads:
Do Elves Have Souls? In a medieval fantasy world in which the realm of man is dominated by a rich and powerful Church, the Most Sanctified Charity IV decides the time is ripe to make a conclusive inquiry into the matter. If, in his infallible wisdom, he determines that elves do have immortal souls, then the Church will be obliged to bring the Holy Word of the Immaculate to them. But if he decides they do not, there will be holy war. Powerful factions line up on both sides of the debate. War-hungry magnates cast greedy eyes at the ancient wealth of the elven kingdoms and pray for a declaration that elves are little more than animals. And there are men who are willing to do more than merely pray. The delegation sent to the High King of the Elves is led by two great theologians, brilliant philosophers who champion opposite sides of the great debate. And in the Sanctiff’s own stead, he sends the young nobleman, Marcus Valerius. Marcus Valerius is a rising scholar in the Church, talented, fearless, and devout. But he is inexperienced in the ways of the world. Nothing in his life has prepared him for the beauty of the elves—or the monumental betrayal into which he rides.

My Take:

When I picked up this book I hoped for adventure, thought provoking debate... and lots of elves. Maybe you'll laugh at that last part but I really thought if your aim is to decide about the state of their souls - they should play a fairly large role in the story. The real central conflict (and thus the story) is centered around the men here. Elves play a secondary role  - almost as more of an excuse to examine the people than anything else.

This book was somewhat confusing to me. It's more like four things squished between one cover than a single novel. It sets up as this dramatic tale about what will happen when they meet the elves - but about 70% of the book is the journey there and back again plus the Summa Elvetica - which is short and really anti-climatic because the author already summarizes the important conclusions for us and what decision has been made. Then he shares his author's note and then goes back and shares two short stories that give background information for the main story. The two stories also don't connect to each other. It's almost as if the author had these great ideas but couldn't figure out how to make it into one smooth, connected novel so he just pieced it together into -- this. 

Despite this drawbacks I loved the characters we meet early on in the book. They are well-written and have engaging personalities. I like action more than long descriptions but I still enjoyed the camaraderie shared between the characters and "listening in" on and comparing the soldiers war stories was interesting. 

In the end, I wasn't the biggest fan of the format but there were lots on interesting surprises and great characters that made it a worthwhile read.  


  1. THis one looks intersting, Lee! Thanks for the review!

  2. Carrie - I'm glad you liked the review. :o)

  3. Sounds like an interesting book! Thanks for your review.