Sep. 7th, 2009

joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
I finished this late last night. This is the debut novel of Kari Sperring and so I picked it up because of that. I try to help support new authors as much as possible by buying their books and trying them out. And with this one, I was not disappointed.

The atmosphere is the best part of this book, combined with the characters. The entire novel is set in the city of Merafi which has been free of ghosts and other magical aspects for generations due to a pact made in blood ages past and also by the fact that magic users are essentially illegal in the city. However, something has begun unraveling that ancient pact and now ghosts are appearing on the streets, along with strange mists and other fell creatures within them, and even nature itself seems to be against the city. It rains constantly, there are mists nearly every night, and the river water is rising, bringing with it plague and death. All of this is the atmospheric backdrop of the novel.

What draws you into the story is the style and the characters set against this backdrop. The main character is Gracielis, a courtesan and spy, who becomes unwillingly entwined with the lives of Thierry, the ghost Valdarrien, Iareth, Joyain, and a few others. I like how the individual lives of these characters--all seemingly separate--begin to slowly come together and cross, so that the actions of one affects them all. I also like that the lives of the characters do not necessarily end where a fantasy novel would typically have them end. So if you read the book, don't expect the usual outcomes for all of the characters. You'll be surprised.

I did have one problem with the novel, nothing that detracts from it to the point where I wouldn't recommend it to others though. I did not feel that I had a good idea or handle on how the magic in the world worked, even by the end of the novel, when all of the power comes to a head. I spent a good amount of time on some of the more heavily descriptive scenes involving magic and while I have a sense of what the magic is like and how it behaves, I couldn't explain it. It isn't as concrete or solid and I'd like as a reader. That said, it's certainly intriguing, which is probably why I'd like to understand it better.

In the end though, it was the lives of the characters that I was mainly interested in, not the magic, so I had not problem shrugging the magical system's inner workings aside and focusing on the characters instead. Great setting, great atmosphere, a style of writing that was reminiscent of old England and France, and interesting characters with lives and feelings and desires of their own. The vagueness of the magical system did not detract much from all of this at all. I'd definitely recommend the book to others. It's a strong debut novel and I'll be picking up Kari Sperring's next book when it comes out.


joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)

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