This was a rec from a friend, and she got my number, this sort of story is precisely my thing : a sort of cross between Shards of Honour
with a touch of The Man in the Maze
for ominous, and a code breaking / language translating theme. Right up my alley.
And it starts well. I like the author´s writing (nothing to write home about, but competent and not in the way). I like the universe, it is interesting - a planet where there is a clash of cultures, some depending on magic, another more backwards and militaristic expansionist one counting only on the physical sciences. The plot advanced fast and competently enough. There were yes, a couple action scenes which might be a too high-octane for total plausability, but I can overlook that.
Then around 50% of the way in I put down the book, and when I pick it up again a few days later, I find I liked the whole book much less. Now either it was a coincidence I stopped reading precisely where the plot was going to pieces; or it is me in a different less kind mood. I suspect a mix of the two factors. It can´t be just me, seriously Tikaya was not *that* much of Mary Sue on the first half. Which is precisely one of my two main issues with the plot:
- Tikaya, our abducted translating genius heroine (it´s on book description) is a great heroine: smart, strong, sensible, mature, intelligent. But on the second half of the book her resourcefulness and above all her translation skills (and confidence in said translation skills) stretch credibility a LOT. (view spoiler)[Translating a written unknown language, without any ties to any spoken language on their planet, or clue to how it was pronounced or articulated, on her own, without computers or much reference materials (apart from a diary by somebody else, which proclaims often wrong) is just well incredible. Even if most of what she was translating was technical and scientific information, translating a periodic table yes, of course that is a universal Rosetta stone. But technology is society and culture dependent, her ability to translate anything at once is well, not believable to me. And her total confidence in her translating skills and no hesitation at applying those are not annoying : she preaches others to not touch anything, but then she can read anything and touches at will, up to drawing herself baths and setting up beds in a place full of dangers. And yeah, while she has no magic powers at all, she can *sense* when magic is used nearby - if that ability is not magical but natural I wonder why the Turgonians never developed an instrument to measure that. But no, it is a special skill of our heroine which just shows up when necessary. (hide spoiler)]
- The sense of wonder, of mystery about the setting does not last long into the novel. About 2/3rds of the way in, our heroine with her marvelous translating skills translate a 1-paragraph explanation of it (not a technical passage by any means, spoiler above). That´s it. The whole thing is a McGuffin for a lot of action, and a few twists, some good and some bad.
Another friend wants to know if I recommend this now. I am not sure. I recommend the author and I am considering reading more of her books, because I liked the writing, liked the setup, liked very much the pace and concept. This particular book I am not sure I recommend (though I am thankful it was was recommended to me and not sorry I read it), its second half I found just too frustrating for that. So 4-5 stars to the first half of the book, 1-2 stars to the second half, let´s split hairs and call it a 3.