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Still can't decide if I enjoyed this or not....
on 29 November 2007
This book is the second part of a trilogy, the first being "Devices and Desires" and the third (out imminently in paperback) being "The Escapement". I have just devoured the first two books almost without pause, including some very late nights, which seems to suggest I really enjoyed them, but I'm still not quite sure if I did or not.
Let me explain. Pretty much everything about both books looks wonderful - the story is epic and complex, the characters detailed, the world varied and interesting. Parker's writing style is highly original and inventive and the action clips along, combining intrigue, action, epic battles, involved relationships and individual hopes and dreams.
Yet somehow it adds up to less than the sum of these promising parts. I found myself disliking almost every character, leaving me unsure who to root for. The world is analagous to the late Roman empire, with a highly advanced but arrogant and stagnant nation and their worthy, honourable but relatively primitive antagonists. Each of these nations is frustratingly one-dimensional, their attributes set out early in book one and hammered home through all 1400 pages of both books.
The villains are cartoon baddies, the good guys similarly clear cut (yet, in their different ways, much less interesting). Parker also uses a particular approach to getting under the skin of the participants, writing long passages (pages and pages) of their internal thoughts and dilemmas. One character thinks of everything as a machine, another as a hunt...over and over again, to the point where I started skipping large chunks just to get to the point where the action moved on.
Somewhere in the 700 pages of this book there is a fantastic 500 page novel. Same for book one and, I expect, book three. I like long stories and have no fear of 2,000 page trilogies, so it is odd to find myself wishing this one was 25% shorter. And of course if it was shorter, it would be less original, less involved and thus perhaps less enjoyable...
Which brings me back to my original dilemma...5 stars for its sheer scope and originality; 1 star for annoying me with repetition and characters whose deaths I was eagerly hoping for with very page turned. Some people are going to absolutely adore this, others will get bored halfway through. No bad thing to divide opinion of course, except when the divided opinion is in my own head...