Genre: Epic Fantasy, 13+
Publisher: Del Rey (April 28, 2009)
Hardcover: 464 pages
The Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand is the last of her kind. Six hundred years old, the secrets of her construction long forgotten, the massive vessel dwarfs every other sailing craft in the world. It is a palace with sails, a floating outpost of the Empire of Arqual. And it is on its most vital mission yet: to deliver a young woman whose marriage will seal the peace between Arqual and its mortal enemy, the secretive Mzithrin Empire. But the young woman in question-Thasha, the daughter of the Arquali ambassador-has no intention of going meekly to the altar. For the ship's true mission is not peace but war-a war that threatens to unleash an ancient, all-consuming evil.
As the dark conspiracy at the heart of the voyage unfurls, Pazel Pathkendle, a lowly tarboy with an uncanny gift, will find himself in an unlikely alliance with Thasha and her protectors: Hercól, a valet who is more than he appears; Dri, the queen of a race of tiny stowaways who have their own plans for the great ship; and Ramachni, a powerful sorcerer from another world. Arrayed against them are the Chathrand's brutal captain, Nilus Rose; the Emperor's spymaster and chief assassin, Sandor Ott; and the enigmatic Dr. Chadfallow, a longtime friend to Pazel's family whose kind words may hide a vicious betrayal.
As the Chathrand navigates treacherous waters to complete its mission, Pazel, Thasha, and their allies-including a singularly heroic rat-must also navigate a treacherous web of intrigue to uncover the secret of the legendary Red Wolf.
I seem to be stuck in a mixed feelings rut here lately and sadly, this novel falls neatly into that category. This book just did not work for me. Now notice, I said ME. Judging by the rave reviews elsewhere, I am in a minority on this. I mean Terry Brooks loved it and who am I to argue with Terry Brooks!
Why it did not work for me. Straight away, I was annoyed by the amount of telling and the slow start. I tend to really enjoy books where I can live in the story. It is not the characters experiencing events; it is me experiencing things through them. I never got that degree of immersion from this tale. Now telling can work, I have seen it done, but this time it kept me on the outside of things instead of pulling me in. I felt that the novel could have been so much more then it was. However, there are aspects that are interesting and I was never tempted to just put it back down.
Now in defense of the story telling style I suspect it was by design. Right up front you are told about the major story plot. The mystery then revolves around who is on what side of the conspiracy and what their motivations are. Because of this, it makes sense that you would not be allowed to get but so deep into the heads of the characters. Neat way of doing things, just not one that I am particularly fond of.
What I did like. I loved the concept of the story, I enjoyed the mystery, the strange and wonderful creatures and races and while I never felt "in touch" with the characters, they were still fun to watch. The action does eventually pick up and you never really know exactly who the good people are. The twists and turns were delightful, and the world building was detailed and full of wonderful things. This book also has another thing going for it. It is very readable by all ages. This is not one of those harsh, gritty, overly dark novels that are so popular lately but one that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
See what I mean by mixed feelings?
Plot, mystery, and intrigue lovers who enjoy unique worlds full of wonderfully imagined creatures and races, that range from giants to people so small they are almost invisible, are going to enjoy this book. Die-hard character lovers like me will still find plenty to like. In addition, if you love large sailing ships and the nautical lifestyle, you are going to adore this tale. It might not have been the total immersion that I was looking for but it is still alot of fun to read and it did contain one element I have a definite fondness for, sentient animals! There is a unique spin on these critters that I do not think has been fully explained yet. Actually, the book is full of unique spins on fantasy tropes; it is one of its charms. I do want to add one more note, this book does read like the start of a series. It is not a standalone with a conclusive ending.
Conclusion. While it did not blow me away, I cannot say that it turned me off either. Likely any perceived faults lie solely in my tastes and not due to any lack of quality in either the writing or the story. Fun read with plenty of promise offered by a debut author who will be worth watching for years to come.
Shelfari Rating 2/5
Librarything Rating 3.4/5
Amazon Rating 3+ out of 5 stars
(7 Customer Reviews)
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Other Reviews: (Some with mild spoilers but more plot detail)
Fantasy Book Critic - The Wertzone - Fantasy Debut - Terry Brooks
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