The Naming


Alison Croggon


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

November 11, 2018

he Chronicles of Pellinor first came out in the US with the publication of The Naming in 2005. But somehow, I missed it entirely. I also missed the release of the other three novels in the quartet. I guess this speaks to the strength of the fantasy publishing world, there are so many talented authors writing excellent novels that even a superior story like the Chronicles of Pellinor can be overshadowed. I forget now exactly how I heard of Croggon's books, but I think that when I was reading a review for another novel, that I came across a line in the vein of: "...not since the Chronicles of Pellinor have I read such a fine example of world building". Which of course, made me look up the Chronicles of Pellinor, and then check The Naming out of the library. I am glad that I found it.

The Naming is the story of Maered, a young slave laboring in squalor in a remote mountain village called Gilman's Cot. One day a fugitive, Cadvan, stumbles into Gilman's Cot. Cadvan is stunned that Maered can see him, for Cadvan is a powerful bard (wizard) and he has made himself invisible. Clearly Maered must have undeveloped bard talent of her own, so Cadvan talks her in escaping with him. Maered accepts his offer, and the adventure begins.

Cadvan and Maered flee over rough and wild mountains, seeking the safety of the bard town Innail. There, Maered will receive her first training in bard lore, and learn to develop her skills. Also at Innail, Cadvan and the bards discuss the threat of a dark lord who has arisen in the south, the Nameless One.

Cadvan and Maered leave Innail, heading west for the chief city Norloch, where the highest and wisest bards sit in council. There, Cadvan hopes to learn more about the threat of the Nameless One, and how he can be defeated. As they cross the wild lands, Cadvan and Maered see many signs of the land under stress, ruined farms and stricken people. They encounter powerful beings called The Elidhu. They are pursued by the corrupted bards who served the Nameless One, called Hulls. Monsters ambush them, but Maered is quickly learning to command her power, and with Cadvan's skill, they fight through. At one point, they come upon a slaughtered caravan, where all the people have been killed, except for one frightened boy who hid during the attack. This boy turns out to be Maered's long lost brother.

It is inevitable that the Chronicles of Pellinor will be compared to The Lord of the Rings. Both stories have powerful dark lords out to destroy the world, and only a plucky hero can save the world. Both are High Fantasy stories, involving epic quests across a huge landscape. In Lord of the Rings, the dark lord Sauron directs the corrupted Nazghul in his quest for total world domination. In Chronicles of Pellinor, the Nameless One, Sharma, directs the corrupted bards, called Hulls, in his quest for total domination. In Lord of the Rings, the chief wizard, Saruman, is corrupted by his quest for power. In the Chronicles of Pellinor, the chief bard, Enkir, is corrupted by his quest for power. In Lord of the Rings, destruction of the one true ring will destroy Sauron. In the Chronicles of Pellinor, a magic device called the Treesong will destroy Sharma. The Fellowship of the Ring finds aid and succor in a magic forest glade, Lothlórien, ruled by a beautiful queen, Galadriel, who has great powers. In the Chronicles of Pellinor, Maerad finds aid and succor in a magic forest glade, Rachida, which is ruled by a beautiful queen, Ardina, who has great power.

Clearly Croggon read Tolkien, and was greatly influenced by his writing. But The Naming does not feel like a derivative piece of storytelling, it is not a Lord of the Rings ripoff. I think the Chronicles of Pellinor succeeds because the world building is tremendous. Maered and Cadvan cross an immense landscape, after they completed another leg of their journey, I would turn to the map included at the front of the book, and see what a short distance they had just covered. Annar is big!

This is a great start to a fantasy series. It has epic scope, and a great plot. Maered is likeable, and her courage and grit get her through some tough situations. Is The Naming as good as Lord of the Rings? No, but then, neither is any other book.