Published by: self-published
ISBN 13: 9788771700428
Published: May 2016
Format reviewed: epub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Read for the SPFBO, this is the another semi-finalist book that I chose to further consider out of my initial 30, trying to whittle them all down to a single title to put forward to the other judges.
After an unfortunately slow start we meet the King’s scribe, who is known as Quill. He has an apprentice, who listens in as a stranger meets his master, bringing sly news from Alcazar – once the stranger is gone, the Quill questions his apprentice through the information to teach the boy what it all means. He takes the fact of importing a lot of timber means war – for the king and his son have died, leaving a too-young grandson to rule, and this spirals the plot out for the entirety of the novel as we see conflict as various factions try to overthrow the new ruler.
The plot in this novel is its strongest element. Through war and ever-shifting political alignment the reader is taken through the world through many different point of view characters – and as a point of world building many of the characters of each house have very similar names, which does get a little confusing at times – and we see the plot unfolding through characters of both high and low birth.
The research and creation into the world itself is to be commended. You can see from the first chapter that a great deal of thought has gone into everything – the families and their histories, the land and each culture and religion, and once you reach the end of the book you have pages and pages of notes.
One of the weaker aspects of the novel were the characters. I was three quarters through the novel when I realised I still hadn’t connected or really cared for any of them, other than perhaps Egil (the Quill’s apprentice) – possibly because there’s not really any main or secondary leading characters. At times the plot moves quickly and before you know it you’re in the eyes of yet another character. Not necessarily a bad thing, but did, at times, make it very easy to put the book down.
Another point to make is the writing. It’s written with a fairly heavy archaic tone, which does suit the novel itself but again, makes it easy to put down if you have other books on hand to read. At times, you just can’t find the mood for a Tolkienesque novel, especially when it’s all war and characters that seem a little samey.
This is however a strong novel. It has a high degree of finish – I didn’t notice any typos, and you can tell it’s been edited well. The plot is faultless, the world building as I said is excellent, and the fight scenes and battles are easily described as you get such a strong feel for the lands. The characters themselves are decent, and I honestly wouldn’t know how myself to flesh them out as individuals without slowing down the novel when trying to include such a hefty number of POVs to tell the story – which does cover such a wide range of both land and individual personal vendettas and stakes that it is the right choice to make.
Overall, a strong contender.