A departure from novelists previous work

Sam Mieure and Sam Mieure

With the bestselling hits “Never Let Me Go” and “The Remains of the Day,” author Kazuo Ishiguro has left himself large boots to fill with his newest novel “The Buried Giant.” Readers have come to expect understated but emotional narratives set in settings that may not be real but are still believable and familiar. “The Buried Giant,” however, ventures into a territory that no one could have expected—a fantastical version of medieval England where dragons and ogres wander the countryside. Still, some elements remain that are trademarks of Ishiguro’s literary style.

The story is centered on the elderly Axl and Beatrice and the teenage Edwin, who has the heart of a warrior. Though the action is slow to begin, eventually the three of them set off together on a quest to find what seems to be missing from their lives. They are quiet to avoid demons, cautious of dragons and sometimes even engage in battle with “fiends,” creatures related to ogres. The action and plot of the novel seems to be lifted straight from a game of Dungeons and Dragons, although Ishiguro’s characterization is more intricate and believable. In Axl, Beatrice and Edwin, I was able to find someone I could root for and believe in, something that had been central in “Never Let Me Go.”

Although fans of Ishiguro’s other works may be turned off by the fantasy elements of the novel, the work still bears the distinctive mark of the author. The narration is in third person, but retains a conversational tone that sometimes speaks to the reader as if they are also part of the same universe. This is a technique that has become an integral part of Ishiguro’s works. The novel also features a mystery in the form of the mist, an evil magical aura that seems to be stealing the characters’ memories and spawning evil creatures throughout the land. It is revealed as if it is not a mystery at all, just another detail about the characters’ lives. However, as the story progresses, the mist seems to become both more and less mysterious. The slow brewing of peculiar conflicts is familiar from earlier works by Ishiguro, and especially reminiscent of donations from “Never Let Me Go.”

Altogether, “The Buried Giant” does not meet any expectations you could have about a novel succeeding “Never Let Me Go.” However, it is an entertaining read, worth the time and effort despite its strangeness. If you have not read any works by Ishiguro but are a fan of fantasy works such as “Eragon,” this novel will deliver the fantasy setting and characters of a fantasy novel (but with less action and more contemplation). Kazuo Ishiguro has taken on a bizarre new task, but this work is still his own and should not be shunned for its differences.