Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Saga of Mithgar: The Iron Tower Trilogy: by Dennis L. McKiernan (Series Summary)

Mulluane | 6:00 PM | 3 Comments so far
The Iron Tower Omnibus by Dennis McKiernan

An Epic Fantasy Series Review

By Dennis L. McKiernan

Genre: Epic Fantasy, Heroes, YA 13+
Series: The Saga of Mithgar: Books 1-3
ISBN: 0451458109
Publisher: Roc (December 12, 2000)
Paperback: 672 pages
Books: The Dark Tide - Shadows of Dooom - The Darkest Day

Fantastic Fiction's Blurb of Dark Tide:
Tuck Underbank is a Warrow -- think a hobbit with shoes and "large jewel-like eyes" -- living in the peaceful Boskydells. When an unnaturally cold winter strikes and the evil Modru threatens the world, he and a number of his fellow Thornwalkers go to the High King's aid. But a vast expanse of lightless blizzard called the Dimmendark (sounds bad, doesn't it?) is spreading over the land, and Tuck soon finds that the "dark tide" is going to swamp them all.

Despite the fact that they're tiny and temperamental, the Warrows get included in the military forces. But the High King doesn't have enough warriors to hold off the horde of slobbering monsters who are coming to attack. And the battle goes horribly wrong, separating the friends from one another and possibly dooming them all.
I am going to break with tradition (it is my tradition so I can break it right?) Normally I review each book in a series, and then write the summary but not this time. There are two reasons for this. One, the author never intended for this to be 3 separate books - that was the publisher's idea - the author always intended for it to be read as one continuous story. Two, combined, the entire omnibus totals 672 pages, which is in line with what I am used to reading in a single book anyway. One more important note. This series is readily available in omnibus form but the individual books appear to be out of print. I could not find an excerpt at all and I was fortunate to find a blurb of the first book! The publisher's site is sadly lacking in any information, it lists the omnibus but little else.

This series has spawned alot of controversy over the years; readers either love it because of its close resemblance to Lord of the Rings or hate it for that same reason. I fall in the first category. Yes, it contains just about every high fantasy trope there is and yes, it is basically LoTR minus Gandalf but those are the very reasons why I love it. Besides that, it is virtually impossible for an author to duplicate exactly another's work. No matter who retells a story, they are going to imprint on it their own personality and voice. Which leads me to the third objection to this series, some think it does not resemble LoTR enough! Sigh.

Personally, I love this series. Now even I am aware of some flaws, this is Dennis L. McKiernan's first effort and like most new authors, his writing could stand some improvement, and happily, his later works do. However, as I have done in the past, I am always going to start at the beginning of a series, regardless of how much better succeeding books are (or are not). Not that it is badly written but later works are tighter and more developed, eventually losing most of the LoTR influences and truly becoming a world of its own.

This is one of those series that I consider a "fun" read. After reading so many dark tales lately with deep issues, unique magic systems and blurred lines between good and evil, I was in the mood for some traditional fantasy where the "bad" people are pure evil and the "good" people were shining examples of honor, loyalty, and high moral standards. This series fit the bill. I really loved reading a tale where I knew exactly who was what and knew that good must triumph and evil will be defeated. Another thing that I thoroughly enjoyed was that this series is written in a "storytelling" type style. As I read it, I could easily imagine myself sitting around a fire listening as a talented storyteller or bard related this tale to a group of wide-eyed kids and equally wide-eyed adults. Might not cut it against today's gritty, personal and darkly emotional stories but to me it was a delight. In addition, the ending is both poignant and sweet, wrapping up what can only be described as a classic fantasy tale.

As far as content, this is very readable by young adults. There is war, monsters, death, betrayal, and tragedy with the normal types of violence that go with them but nothing too graphic. It is not aimed at young adults, the characters are late teens at best, right on the cusp of adulthood or full adults, but there is no lovemaking or harsh language, and the violence falls within PG-13 standards. There is a bit of romance too, however the two main couples stay separated by war for the majority of the series.

If you want an alternate to a reread of Lord of the Rings, written by an author who openly admits that this series was patterned, atleast in part, after those works; you cannot go wrong with this series. However, go in with your mind open and read it for itself. It is like and yet unlike Lord of the Rings. In and of itself it is a delightful story but if you compare it too closely, you are going to be disappointed. Personally, it is and will continue to be one of my all time favorites, hopefully, if it is not already, it will someday become one of yours!

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books, Affiliate Links

Shelfari Rating 3+/5

Librarything Rating 3.19/5

Amazon Rating 3+ out of 5 stars
(59 Customer Reviews)

Similar Reads from Librarything
Or What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: No

Ebook: No

Buy Book: B&N - Powells - Abe Books

Amazon: US Canada UK
Read an Interview with Dennis L. McKiernan From:
Fiction Factor
Other Reviews: (Some with mild spoilers but more plot detail)
SFF World - SF Reader
Author's Web Presence

Mulluane is a 56-year-old proud grandmother of 4, who is passionate about her pets, blogging, traditional fantasy, and tinkering with webdesign. She is obssesively photo shy but she uses an avatar that accurately represents her dreams. ♥ You can also find her on:

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Old Bat's Belfry - Witty Wacky and Wise Quotes


  1. Well done, Mulluane.

    But these days I tend to read dark fantasy and steampunk.

  2. I have the three paperbacks in my collection. I really enjoyed these books when I first read them. My favorite of the Mithgar books I've read so far is Dragondoom.

  3. Wow; thanks for the memories! A lot of these old series are now available in omnibus editions--often that's the only way to buy them anymore, without buying used books.

    I really enjoyed this series years ago for the same reasons you mentioned. I tried to read a subsequent book, Voyage of the Fox Rider, but I never finished it.


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