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Book Review

Book Cover

The Stone Dance of the Chameleon
The Third God (Hardback)


Author: Ricardo Pinto
Bantam Press
RRP: £20.00, US $26.92
ISBN: 978 0 59305 051 4
Available 26 March 2009

Having fallen from the grace of the Chosen, Osidian and Carnelian find themselves at the crossroads of their fate. Around Carnelian are the slaughtered remains of the plains folk who had once given them shelter, annihilated for Osidian's desire to return to his rightful place in Osrakum. With little else to lose Carnelian joins Osidian and the remaining loyal tribes on a quest back to their homeland, to either win the day or die trying...

The Third God by Ricarado Pinto is the third and final book in The Stone Dance of The Chameleon trilogy of fantasy books. The novel follows on from events depicted in The Chosen (1999) and The Standing Dead (2002).

The book is dense with descriptions of this fictional land, so that the reader feels that he has taken every oppressive step with the protagonists, so much so that reading these endless descriptions start to become weary fairly quickly. That’s not so say that this sort of thing isn’t popular with certain readers, even Dickens was guilty of this indulgence (The Old Curiosity Shop, 1840), but Pinto lacks the poetic eloquence of Tolkein (The Lord of the Rings, 1954) and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast (1946) or the scalpel brevity of Frank Herbert’s prose (Dune, 1963) in describing a whole new world.

What did help the latter two books, and was sorely missing in The Third God was a glossary of names, places and creatures. It is this, more than anything, which stops this tale working as a standalone story, rather than the conclusion to a story; you really do get the feeling that you’ve stumbled into the third act without knowing who or what anything is. There are a few maps included, which helps a bit, but with no scale attached to the map this whole new fantasy land looks a little on the small side. Given the speed at which Osidian and Carnelian traverse the map it would make the whole inhabited part of the planet little bigger than France.

One of the things that I liked about Lord of the Rings was that although the action takes place in an area equivalent to mainland Europe, there were hints of lands further beyond - which gave the story a feeling of greater scope.

Many of the creatures and peoples, I presume, were described in detail in the preceding two volumes, so Pinto has presumed a level of knowledge which may not exist in his audience. I, never having read the first two books, felt like I was wading through molasses for the first hundred pages, having to cope with an inundation of unfamiliar names, which had little or no explanation. Therefore the book starts out lopsided with an abundance of metaphorical description of the landscape, but hardly a line to describe simple things like the beasts of burden that are ridden.

The book's narrative is told in the third person, from the point of view of Carnelian. He, like Osidian, has been cast out from his rightful place with the ‘Chosen’ and are using the plains folk to regain his lost power. As a guide to this new world I found his introspective character to be uniformly morose. I admit that there are peppered references to a time past when both characters were in love and seemingly happy, which may give the much needed perspective of their current predicament to anyone who has read the previous novels, but coming to this book on its own, without that reference, makes for depressing reading.

Pinto writes well enough, but I can’t help feeling that some meaty cuts out of the descriptive text would have picked up the pace of the book. I may be being entirely unfair to Pinto to paint the book as slow and depressing; much of the same criticism could be laid at the feet of The Return of the King (J. R. R. Tolkien, 1955) if it were to be read in isolation, but even that book had its brighter moments which not only helped to accentuate the dark peril of its characters but also provided a rule against which to measure it.

For those of you who started with the first book, Pinto delivers a rich and immersive experience. For those of you that have picked up this book without this experience then you should head over to where Pinto has generously provided synopsis of the first two books, which should help you understand the background of The Third God.


Charles Packer

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