It had been awhile since I read a high fantasy novel when I came across this one in the Midtown Library. No, it’s not one of those trashy romance fantasy novels, the material in there is not that graphic either so I’m guessing the cover is to sensationalize it. The cover of the edition I had was mostly black and doesn’t look like much.
Lisle creates a vivid world for her characters to play in, ripe with magic hierarchy and complex politics and religious undertones, I found it to be quite a worthwhile read. The lead character Talyn is a Shielder who can wield magic and see into ‘the View’ which is sort of like a different plain of knowledge that only a few can go into. It’s the primary battleground for an ages old feud between Talyn’s insular, homogeneous country and it’s republican ethnically hodgepodge neighbor. The war, and consequently an entire war industry and way of life, ceases when foreigners bring peace to the region through alliances and placing their own soldiers on outposts.
The story is a multi-layered tale that begs the large philosophical question of, ‘Is everything about war bad?’ and more over next to nothing is black and white for the characters. They constantly struggle with the weight of their actions and are conflicted with the paradox of wanting to win the war, yet still living as though they have purpose outside of it. The history of the war and anecdotes inserted about it truly takes things to a new level. The characters are sharp, genuinely complex and humanly real.
My criticism of the book is that the prose becomes dry and the plot lags halfway through. The characters get caught in a sort of limbo as they try to rid their lands of the foreign influence. Another sticking point for me is that the narrative bounces between first person and third person, which I’ve come to regard as a pet peeve if an author cannot stick to a particular style but I tried to put that aside. The latter portion of the novel dragged and the end felt too rushed.
Still, it was a great read and I recommend it if you’re looking for how to write a very good fantasy world and multi-dimensional characters.