Friday, 1 November 2013

The Last Ringbearer by Kiril Eskov translated by Ysrael Markov

"The Last Ringbearer" by Kiril Eskov takes a very interesting counter view to the original Lord of the Rings Saga. In Eskov's novel Sauron and Mordor were the good guys embarking on the early stages of industrial revolution in a land previously dominated by magic. Gandalf is a reactionary zealot who incites a genocidal war in order to annihilate Mordor before they grow powerful enough to upset the status quo. In Eskov's work the Lord of the Rings trilogy that we are familiar with is a white washed version of events published by the victors to cover up their atrocities. 

Sadly the work is not authorised by the Tolkien estate and is almost certainly in breach of copyright. Don't expect a commercial English translation any time soon. Markov's English translation is available for download as a non commercial e-book so I guess it falls into the legally murky waters of fan fiction or derivative works. 

Overall I have to say it was an excellent and engaging read that is worth reading as a piece of fantasy in its own right. It is a proto steam punk tale where haughty elves are trying to subjugate  human  ingenuity in order to prevent an industrial age from ever happening. Markov's English translation is rather excellent. The translated flows naturally without clumsiness or awkward phrasing.

 Eskov's story owes very little to Tolkien and nor do any of his main characters nor even his mythology. He has borrowed the names of background figures (like Gandalf and Aragorn) but they are very different people in this book than in Tolkien. The greatest plagiarism is  geography because Eskov's places and landscapes are those of Tolkien's Middle Earth. To be honest it is almost a pity that Eskov borrowed from Tolkien at all because the novel deserves to be read in its own right. Now unfortunately it does means that in the Western world with our rigid interpretation of copyright Eskov's rather good novel will remain an illicit pleasure for several decades to come.