The uneven start of an epic story,
This review is from: The Weavers Of Saramyr: Book One of the Braided Path: Braided Path 1 (GOLLANCZ S.F.) (Paperback)
For an author whose career has been much more attuned to young adult science fiction and fantasy, "The Braided Path" trilogy happens to be a turning point in Chris Wording's career. The first part of this trilogy is "The Weavers of Saramyr", a novel published in 2004. It's far more graphic in certain scenes (blood; sex...) and at least this first novel has far less influence from the usual plots of manga and anime depicted in other novels of his. However, there's still much of his usual stuff, only more mature (maybe?).
Unlike many fantasy novels, "The Weavers of Saramyr" does not start in a poor village with the poorest family. Instead it starts with a typical noble family of an Asian look-alike world, in particular, Kaiku, the daughter of the head of the family tu Makaima.
Right in the opening pages, the action begins (no chapter long historical introduction!), when Kaiku suddenly awakes in her house and notices something is very wrong. Kaiku and her maid, Asara, are able to get out of the house but Kaiku's family isn't...
In a (sometimes, too) thick plot, Kaiku sets out in a journey to discover what caused her family to die, ending up involving herself in far worse/better things than she could imagine. Like Weavers, an order of mask wearing men who are able to control reality (to some extent). Or mutants and failed projects of the evolutionary process, called Aberrants. Emperors, nobles and conspiracies. And much more.
As for the characters involved in that conflagration of subjects while they are not groundbreaking or very original, they strike me as more believable, maybe because "The Weavers of Saramyr" is targeted to adults and the bulk of characters can be less inhibited. Besides that, there's also a much larger amount of female characters in proportion with male ones, at least in a field of fiction where most protagonists and more active characters are predominantly men or boys.
While the general setting gives off an impression of oriental culture, the heavy use of masks in such sacrosanct but hideous circumstances only reasserts such impression. Not only because of the presence of masks in so many oriental types of entertaining (more specifically, festivals or dances or even plays), but also because of the very markedly different connotation they were associated with brings a deep contrast, which transmits the idea that the worldbuilding was carefully planned.
There's a funny fact about my reading experience with this book, because I have tried to read it twice before and was never able to get to the end of it. I would probably blame the whole mish-mash of subjects that compromise a clearer narrative thread, leaving a meandering path to the reader. However, a bit more of careful reading should prevent any necessity to re-read or re-re-read (as I had to do).
"The Weavers of Saramyr" is a quite enjoyable book, a tad inconsistent but generally improves as we delve deeper into the Asian-like universe. It's not without its faults, due to the saturation of subplots, which implicates a denser book. I just hope that Wooding decided to weed out a few of the extra subjects in the next book, "The Skein of Lament".
Till next time,