Inda Hardcover – 1 Aug 2006
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This is a book of extraordinary scope. It's written in a slightly unconventional narrative style, with a roving point of view, so that you discover what each person present in a scene is thinking - a style that actually works well once you get used to it, bringing to life not only the main characters but the villains and the minor characters as well, so that you get a picture of the whole of a society dedicated to conquest.
Great writing always immerses you in another world, and here Sherwood Smith has succeeded in creating a complex and convincing world that drags you in completely. At the end of this book you may find yourself using Marlovian hand gestures and Academy slang. This is world-creation to match that of Martha Wells or Lois McMaster Bujold.
The story is fascinating - a true tapestry woven from a myriad viewpoints, everything from brief stitches to red threads running through the entire, magnificent thing.
The world, too, is incredibly well crated. Seeming at first to be another pseudo-European medieval fantasy land, there are intriguing hints sprinkled at more going on behind the scenes than what is obvious at first glance. And then there's quite a bit more than hints, and the world is just - absolutely unique. In fantasy, that's rare.
I love coming across fantasy stories that feel truly new and creative and I'm glad I stuck with Inda through the first third of heavy metaphorical lifting, because it's definitely both new and creative and I'm now eager to dive into the next book in the series.
Inda is an incredable character that you watch grow with interest, egging him on into becoming the hero! His friends are also fascinating to watch too! The plot is complex and keeps you wanting to read further! It is great to know that there is a sequel (Fox) coming!
Inda is a likeable protagonist, usually seeming older than his eleven (when the book opens) years. But we quickly learn that in this society, children are introduced to their military roles at a young age, which accounts for the otherwise unnatural maturity of many of the characters. Women are not excluded from this - they are expected to lead the defence of their homes, while the men take a more offensive role against enemies. Despite Inda's young age, this is definitely not a book for children; there are some truly devastating events, both physical and emotional, and sex, while never explicit, is treated frankly.
It is difficult to review this book as there is so much in it which deserves to be mentioned. The first part strongly reminded me of Robin Hobb's Shaman's Crossing in its portrayal of a brutal military school, although the larger society is very different. After a terrible betrayal, the story moves to the open seas as Inda is thrust away from all he knows and loves into an entirely new life. Both sections are convincingly drawn, and equally compelling. There are some real villains in the piece, but most characters are complex enough to prevent them from being entirely black and white. Inda is perhaps a little too good to be true, but he is thoroughly likeable throughout.
All in all, an outstanding, complex read, with three more sequels to enjoy afterwards!
Someone asked me what I was reading, and (part-way through) I replied 'it's a world with magic in it, and Our Hero is a schoolboy for whom it's not all running smoothly'. 'Like Harry Potter?' Oh no, not Harry Potter. This is _seriously good_.
Smith has created a coherent, chaotic (and thus lifelike) world, populated with diverse peoples. It is easier to provide a critism of what doesn't work so well .... there are many, many characters, and because they have many names each, and many important relationships (an individual is daughter, sister, betrothed, etc.), it is hard work keeping track of them all. Perhaps there are no family trees/trees of obligation and betrothal because it is too difficult to present them 2-dimensionally. There were a couple of words I needed to look up in the glossary, which weren't there.