Top critical review
Enjoyable, different, but frustrating
on 28 December 2013
This is a really odd, enjoyable but frustrating book. There are things I really liked about it, and other things that annoyed me.
I loved the basic premise, the set up, the history, the world building - all that. It was inventive, fresh, innovative. It felt like something I hadn't read before, and that's rare enough. I liked how it began as a sort of cod-historical fantasy world, but gradually morphed into sci-fi. I liked the protagonist, Benzamir. But the bulk of my issues with the book are with all the other characters.
For a start, it's not apparent that Benzamir *is* the protagonist until several chapters in. We have a strand following Va and Elenya. We have another strand following Akisi. Benzamir is one more story strand - and after a while he becomes the main one. The story begins with Va and Elenya - so I assumed they were the main characters - but then they're not in it again for a long time.
And they are odd. Not in a good way. I didn't find either of them remotely convincing. All of their sections read as though there's a previous book in the series that I haven't read. There is a lot of history between these two, and it is sort of introduced in dribs and drabs, but I didn't feel it was handled very convincingly or satisfyingly. As the book progressed I began to wonder if the author has ever had any relationships with women, or spoken to them at all...
There was a line about half way through which typified this strange attitude. I can't remember the exact phrase, but the sentiment was: she's a princess, and therefore obviously beautiful and desirable. I really tried to look for some context that would make this irony - but I didn't find any. Also odd is that this information wasn't given until this far into the story - either that she was a princess or that she was beautiful. But after it had been announced it became her defining traits, and all that anyone commented on! And everyone fell in love with her. Because she was a princess. And therefore beautiful :-/ Nevermind obsessive, deluded, and verging on madness...
So that annoyed me a lot. But even so there was a lot I enjoyed about the story. In short, it's good on ideas, bad on relationships. Approach with caution - but do approach.