TheBookSmugglers's Reviews > Wheel of the Infinite

Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells
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Mar 26, 2012

really liked it

I’ve recently read (and loved) Martha Wells’ most recent books, The Cloud Roads (one of my top 10 of 2011) and The Serpent Sea. Ever since then I’ve been meaning to read some of her backlist titles. I decided to go with Wheel of the Infinite because it was recently re-released with a new cover. And I am so glad I did because OH MY WORD, this book was a thing of beauty.

Every year, the Voices of the Ancestors gather to renew the Wheel of the Infinite, a sand mandala that represents the world and shapes reality. Except this year something goes terribly wrong as the Wheel shows a darkness growing and the Celestial One summons Maskele, our main character, to help out. She used to be the Voice of the Adversary – the only Ancestor that was never human and who is the embodiment of justice, bound to destroy evil – but a few years ago she was exiled for murder and treason. Maskele travels back to the heart of the Celestial Empire in the company of her new lover, a swordsman called Rian and together, they must discover who is behind the Wheel’s disintegration, before it is too late.

At its heart, the plot of Wheel of the Infinite could perhaps be described as a Mystery as Maskele and Rian set out to investigate what in the world has happened to the Wheel, who is causing it, and why. They are running against time as the world – as they know it – can be reshaped and reformed by the Wheel. What sets this book apart is the fact this story takes place in one of the most beautifully realised Fantasy settings I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. In fact, given that the last example of a brilliantly done Fantasy setting was Martha Wells’ own aforementioned Books of the Raksura, it is easy to assume that this author has definitely a way with creating extremely inventive, vivid, interesting secondary worlds. The use of sand mandalas might have been inspired by Eastern philosophies and religions (like Buddhism) but the concepts, the ideas, the whole structure of this world – including its religion and politics – is wholly innovative. I loved the idea of the Wheel as being inherent to forming reality as much as I loved the fact that this is a precarious reality in itself, able to be changed depending on those who could wield that power. Although I would have liked to see a bit more of the possible dangers of having only a group of individuals being able to see (and therefore affect) the Wheel, this was not in any way a deterrent for how good this book turned out to be.

I also loved that there was a dash of humour with a side of romance and adventure to the proceedings, not to mention that the whole cast of characters was awesome. The narrative alternates between Maskele and Rian’s point of view but despite that, Maskele is truly the main character here. Although I loved Rian and his story, his past, his competence as a warrior and above all, his dedication to Maskele, it is the latter that made me love this book wholeheartedly.

She is not only a PoC protagonist (amongst an entire plethora of PoC characters in a PoC world) but also an older heroine at over 45 years old AND three previous marriages (none ended well, oops). But this is just the start: I absolutely adored her arc with the heartfelt regret at the actions that led to her exile and all second-guessing that ensued; she was capable and powerful with the ability to kill mercilessly – all of which are also aspects of the Adversary (but where does the Adversary ends and where does the Voice start?). I also loved that it was a struggle NOT to kill because of a vow not to use her powers anymore. As it was a struggle to believe in herself again after her failure so many years ago.

I loved how well balanced and mutually respectful her relationship with Rian was and how their bond developed from initial attraction to something deeper in a very subtle but satisfying way, a lot of it based on mutual respect. Plus how much did I love the fact that Rian is a good 15 years younger and this is not even remotely an issue? A LOT.

And of course, there is the Adversary itself – the only one of the Ancestors who was never human to begin with. It has always been indentified and personified by its Voice (the most recent one being Maskelle) and I appreciated how the story addressed this from both the Voice’s perspective but also from the Adversary’s own.

As you probably have noticed by now, this review is basically a love-fest. Wheel of the Infinite is a tightly woven story driven by plot AND characters beautifully. It’s more than settled now: Martha Wells has just become a favourite author. Highly recommended.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Estara Wohoo! Enjoy Maskelle ^^

TheBookSmugglers I LOVE HER TO BITS . Loved this book like WHOA


message 3: by Estara (last edited Mar 26, 2012 12:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Estara Yay, I love it when my prediction is accurate with regard to your enjoyment.

Isn't she great! And I have to give kudos to Rian, too, for never feeling in the least bit bothered by her powers and competence ^^.

Also: I now predict you will love Madeline in The Death of the Necromancer - although that is more of an ensemble piece and Nicolas is the main protagonist there.

Also 2: Wasn't it totally annoying that they swapped the cover around for the paperback so that Rian looks like the hero of the book? I really like the Kindle/ebook new cover Martha Wells comissioned.

TheBookSmugglers I love Rian too and I said exactly that in my review *gring*

I haven't got Death of Necromancer yet, is that the one I should read next then? (I got City of Bones as soon as I finished Wheel))

message 5: by Estara (last edited Mar 26, 2012 12:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Estara City of Bones is great, too, in a totally different way - but by now you already know that this is the case when MW changes worlds. Even her very first book The Element of Fire (free authorised download) has bits of greatness stuck to it (and an awesome Elizabeth I. like queen, apart from the romance between her captain of the guards and the illegitimate daugther her husband had with the Queen of Faerie).

The Death of the Necromancer you should read before you start the Ile-Rien trilogy (because the main protagonist is the daughter of Nicholas and Madeline - which isn't a spoiler as TDotN already has them established as a couple from the start - although I would have loved to have read their eventual developing relationship, too) - which is MW doing steampunk related work at a time when that wasn't a trend yet. This was the one that was Nebula Award Nominee. Element of Fire is about the same country but a couple of hundred years earlier - in renaissancey times.

City of Bones - examines how people deal with history and prejudice and dealing with revelations that destroy that prejudice. There's no obvious love story, but a lot of deep emotions nevertheless. And it's another totally different world, with touches of Arabia, I thought.

message 6: by Kathleen (new) - added it

Kathleen Ok, you've both sold me on it! Where do I sign up?
So, um... Like....What does PoC stand for? As in:

"She is not only a PoC protagonist (amongst an entire plethora of PoC characters in a PoC world) but also ..."

TheBookSmugglers It refers to People/Person(s) of Color

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