on 29 March 2011
I'll be honest - a lot of high fantasy doesn't do it for me. But I was intrigued by the premise that Westria is California many years in the future after some terrible disaster ripped through the land. This Cataclysm has forever altered the people and their relationship with their environment, as it awoke the spiritual entities guarding the land, forcing them to take a more active role in events.
Told in third person multiple viewpoint, the story clips along at a good pace and I quickly became engrossed in the characters. For me, one of the abiding problems I tend to have with this story structure, is that there is generally one story arc I far prefer to the other sub-plots, so tend to skim through them to get to my favourite. However, Paxson's deft handling of the different protagonists meant that wasn't a particular issue, as her control of the narrative pace, and building of the action to the climax was skilfully executed.
Fans of high fantasy won't be rocked or wrong-footed by the themes running through this book. These include the struggle for moral certitude in a time of building crisis; the epic nature of the battle between good and evil - which in this case certainly starts as more nuanced than is usual in this genre; and the sense of fulfilling a destiny that initially overwhelms the character. In Phoenix's case, he finds refuge in an interesting survival trait that Paxson uses in her heroic depiction of the spirituality that permeates the relationship between the land and its inhabitants. Overall, I found this a well-executed, highly readable book with some original and pleasing touches that distinguish it as novel that not only entertains, but also provides food for thought.