Fantasist & Futurist
- Nov 23, 2002
This is a really unique, intriguing, and well-written fantasy.
For a start, the main story centres around a pair of young divers - Cass and Orc - who can't remember who they are, or even if they were siblings or lovers. They believe that exploring sunken ziggurats will lead them to an artefact that will reveal all.
Then there's Tashi, something akin to a Tibetan warrior-monk, who travels with his guru to track down and stop the machinations of a magician.
The plot develops against a backdrop reminiscent of the Victorian period, and a political clash at sea between colonial powers.
So far, simple enough.
But what's really clever about this story is how it twists and turns, and develops in complexity. Someone we might consider a hero in an early chapter might feel more like a villain in later ones, and vice versa.
Additionally, the use of magic here is clever and intelligent - less D&D and more Carlos Castenada, in that animal totems are used by characters to enter a dreamscape of symbols and metaphors. Connecting everything is an exploration of female mysticism.
I'll be honest in that it took a little while to get into. The Cass and Orc chapters that begin the story are intense and full of conflict. But the jump to Tashi's chapters felt sudden - and although nicely written, seemed more focused on laying the foundations for the series than matching the blistering pace of previous chapters.
After that, everything started to come together with increasing momentum. There were a number of real surprises as the tension built up. The last third of the book is frenetic, complex, yet nuanced and balanced.
Overall, I found this to be a very original story. I was impressed by the characters, the plotting, the setting, and especially the way different belief systems connected and clashed.
I wasn't sure what to think when I first picked up this novel, as it seemed to be outside of my normal comfort zone. In the end, it's one of my best reads so far this year.