My first thoughts were that it's nice to see a setting that actually takes winter seriously - not just, "ooh the trees are so pretty covered in snow bMy first thoughts were that it's nice to see a setting that actually takes winter seriously - not just, "ooh the trees are so pretty covered in snow but it doesn't make a bit of difference to life", but practical "It's so cold you'll die if you try to travel unprepared and this is a large reason behind why clans exist". This is a harsh and brutal landscape and the characters are forced to respect it. (It's also good to see a fantasy that's not preoccupied with the typical stone castles and European-style woodlands etc.)
The second impression was that the plot was going to be interesting, and it didn't disappoint. It takes off fast with Sierra escaping her captors and plunges straight into survival/political and ideological complications/deal with the invaders-who-btw-have-their-own-hidden-agenda goodness. You have to pay attention at the start to get your head around what's going on in the world as it's quite a complex situation and magical set-up, but that soon eases up. I should warn that things get very dark at times and while it's not explicitly graphic it is intense - triggers abound, so avoid if you have trauma in your past that may be brought up.
That darkness to the plot and the world also makes the characters interesting - we get a feel for them from several different perspectives and you start to realise just how murky a concept good and evil is. The characters all have depths to them that are explored deftly and largely manage to avoid being cliches.
Really the only issue I had with the whole book was that just as I was thinking how refreshing it was that the main character hadn't once been simplistically described as "beautiful"... bam! Insta-love (my pet hate) occurs in the space of one chapter. The author tries to save it by having the two characters involved have a bit of internal "I've only known them a week I know this can't be love" thoughts, but they're not fooling anyone. And I get that it's important for certain plot elements that these two characters have a good reason to be so dedicated to each other, but it just felt like it was done in a rush to fulfil that purpose. And as I said, instant love is a pet peeve of mine so other people may not mind it so much....more
This is one of Lackey's better books, with a fast-moving plot and well-handled emotional turmoil. Some of the characters are a bit weak, but Lan is stThis is one of Lackey's better books, with a fast-moving plot and well-handled emotional turmoil. Some of the characters are a bit weak, but Lan is strong enough to carry the whole book ... which he does. Even though I knew what was going to happen to him before I started, I kept reading because I wanted to see how his thought processes and the events that happened would lead to that point. One of my favourite Valdemar books, and it's nice that it's a standalone....more
I haven't read any of Hamilton's other books so I was completely new to the setting. Which didn't bother me, as there is enough info in there to pickI haven't read any of Hamilton's other books so I was completely new to the setting. Which didn't bother me, as there is enough info in there to pick it up quickly. So you can read it without having read any of his other stuff. Whether you want to or not is a different matter.
It started off great: a ship being swallowed up by a mysterious "void", a space-forest of pods and scary man-eating aliens, a desperate escape to an unknown planet and doppelgangers appearing out of nowhere. Very suspenseful and a good mix of mystery and horror in a sci-fi setting. Then it switches to outside the void in the future, and a rescue mission by Nigel is set into motion. Also quite interesting. But it goes downhill from there. A large chunk of the book is taken up with a communist-style revolution in a low-tech society. It just takes up too much time, and is quite boring, with a heavy focus on the mechanics of how the revolution is going to work, all the cells and communication methods and long talks about what to do with the government, etc. It dragged. A lot. And once it gets into that plot-line, you only see the other, more interesting ones in very short bursts, until the very end when it finally all comes together (and that was kind of lackluster too). So I think it had a great start and lots of potential, but was put together clunkily and ultimately didn't live up to all that it could have been.
Other things: the setting was good, the writing was good, the characters were potentially good. But for such a long book, it surprised me that I never really felt like I connected with any of the characters. I think because you see them only in short bursts because of the switching plot-lines, and the ones you do get to see for an extended time are overshadowed by the focus being heavily on the mechanics of the revolution. The only character I really got emotional about was Laura in the Desert of Bones section, and that was a very brief episode (also the best in the entire book, in my opinion, very gripping and a wonderful "horror" moment).
So. If you like other books of Hamilton's I guess you'd like this one. There are enough moments of brilliance in the story that if you think you can get through the slow revolution bits then it's probably worth having a go....more