Sam King's Reviews > Rethana's Surrender

Rethana's Surrender by Courtney Cantrell
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Jul 04, 12

Recommended to Sam by: Aaron Pogue
Read in July, 2012

Rethana's Surrender is about Rethana caring for her sister, dealing with interpersonal conflicts between herself, her townsfolk, and the ruling clerics, and learning magic.

The good:
The book deals with some social issues, particularly the sexist double standards that many women face, in a way that should be more present in more works.
The system of magic is well done. It seems to be well thought out and have a fairly subtle effect on the plot and the world rather than just being deus ex magicka.
The focus on relationships and emotions lets the reader get immersed into Rethana's confusions and triumphs.
Many books have a larger than life protagonist who is able to overcome all obstacles due to their birthright, power, exceptional intellect, skill, or strength. Rethana is very human and subject to human limitations. She has an edge over the average person and is courageously headstrong, but it doesn't feel like she is much stronger than anyone else. It is nice to see a human protagonist.

The bad:
I often felt left in the dark when reading. Part of this was an awkward passage of time, where it wasn't always clear how much time had passed after a break in the narrative. Part of this was the language. In the first part, it's hard to deal with the speaker's accents. After that, there are a lot of words in the cleric's language sprinkled in, and I get the sense that Rethana knows a lot of the words and, in some cases, the reader was even told what the words meant, but I could never keep track of more than two or three of them. As a result, even though the story was told in the first person, it had much of the awkwardness of a third person narrative where the reader never quite feels immersed into the world.
Rethana's emotional state seems more repetitive and less developed. She has internal emotional conflicts regarding romantic relationships, loyalty to her sister, and desire to rebel and go to her family versus desire to learn and stay with the clerics. Each of these conflicts feels about the same at the end of the book as it did towards the beginning even though there are plenty of events and opportunities for emotional development. Rethana is confused and courageous at the beginning and confused and courageous in roughly the same ways at the end.
The worldbuilding and action are both light. That is, the focus of the book is on emotional issues to the exclusion of all else. The world seems like it probably has some unique flair, but we only get to learn about a small part of it, so it has a cookie-cutter medieval fantasy feel (religious ruling class, small towns with some larger cities, hereditary elemental magic without much mechanical explanation, some wandering nomads and witches). And there are only about four different parts of the story, two of which have any action in them.

Overall, I feel like there's a lot there and that there will be some interesting relationships and events in the second book, but the first book doesn't develop much to a satisfying conclusion.
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