I now return to TBRindr with a review of The Woven Ring. In the same vein as my last indie fantasy title, this promised a kind of fantasy that was somewhat rare, in this case a fantasy take on the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods. I'll admit that while I was interested to see some more fantasy that diverged from the norm a bit, I was a bit wary about the particular period of history chosen. You see, while I'm not that knowledgeable about the American Civil War considering that I'm British and all, I've learnt enough to know that it's still a touchy subject and there was a part of me that was rather wary about how it would be translated into a fantasy world.
The Woven Ring follows Marta, a former spy in the civil war that tore the country of Newfield apart and left her an exile from her home. Charged with transporting the daughter of widely-hated inventor into the east of Newfield by her manipulative brother, Marta finds herself torn. Part of her orders state not to kill the inventor, but she finds herself unwilling to consider that possibility due to his role in the civil war. Complicating the issue is the daughter herself, an unresponsive mute who has succumbed to combat fatigue and will only act upon Marta's strict orders, and a series of pursuers that may include agents of the devil herself.
I really shouldn't have worried myself, because The Woven Ring is fantastically written and manages to avoid the main issue that I was worried about regarding the civil war setting. Thankfully, the civil war isn't to do with slavery in this world, so there isn't a tortured race metaphor that the reader has to deal with. Instead, the setting combines the early industrial, post-war feel of the Reconstruction era with a really well fleshed out religion/magic system. I say religion/magic, as the two are very closely intertwined, and I'm not at a point where I can clearly define it as one or the other. It's a fascinating and intricate, and would take me all day to properly explain what I know currently, seeing as the narrative presents a few unexpected twists about it at the end that I hope will be explored in much greater detail.
The plot has two main strands, which can be broadly called the present and the past. The present strand focuses on the above blurb, with a traumatised and intensely bitter Marta on her transportation mission. The past strand focuses on Marta growing up in a family of spies in the years leading up to the civil war, and during the civil war as the situation only gets more and more dire. It alternated between the two, a technique that I have seen used incredibly poorly in the past. Here, it worked out because the two plot strands were equally interesting and each chapter has enough in it that you're not necessarily left hanging for too long.
The characters are similarly well-written. First there is Marta, a bitter and battle-hardened woman trying to regain her family's approval. She was both unnerving and incredibly refreshing as a protagonist, as I don't think I've had a main POV as bleak as this since Best Served Cold. I loved her as a protagonist, but I can see her being a bit much for someone who prefers their main characters to be a bit friendlier. Second, there's Caddie, the mute girl that Marta is transporting across the country to return to her father. She's apparently been traumatised by something in the past, but by what is unknown and there may be much more to her than initially meets the eye. And lastly, there are Luca and Isabelle, two mercenaries who join Marta to help her reach her destination in the east. While Luca is chatty and obviously shifty, Isabelle is mute and seems about as sick of Luca's shit as Marta is. For me, they weren't as interesting to follow, but they do provide some nice contrast to Marta and allow her to have some interactions with someone who isn't a child in a stupor.
The Woven Ring is a fantastic novel with a lot of intricacy and depth. The characters are well-written, if a bit on the bleak side, although that's to be expected in a Grimdark fantasy book. The main draw for me though is the world-building, unusually enough for me, but the level of effort that has gone into it and into making the world feel like a living thing is obvious and very much appreciated. I will definitely be looking to pick up the sequel at some point. 5/5
Next review: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Saturday, 24 November 2018
Friday, 9 November 2018
So I've been in need of a bit of normality recently, considering that my husband injured himself quite badly. As such, I apologise to those authors from TBRindr who may be waiting on a review and browsing my blog, I've been a tad distracted. In any case, I wanted something familiar, so Discworld it was.
Soul Music follows a few different groups of people. Following the deaths of his adopted daughter and former apprentice, Death wishes to forget and avoid the process of grieving. Taking on his duty in his absence is his granddaughter, Susan, who has been raised largely away from her grandfather, in the hopes that she won't have to take up the family business. In one of her first jobs as Death, she comes across Imp y Celyn, a humble bard who has vowed to be the greatest musician in history, and in doing so has unwittingly made a pact with an eldritch guitar. And, of course, because his music is now somehow magical, the wizards get involved as several of them start acting unusual after being exposed to the music's power.
Several years ago, before I ever picked up any of the Discworld novels, by best friend convinced me to watch the cartoon adaptation of Soul Music. I remembered a couple of things about it when I started the book that it stemmed from. First, that Death will always speak with Christopher Lee's voice, because there has never been more perfect casting. Second, that this was the introduction of Susan, who I seemed to like at the time. Other than that, I couldn't really recall a great deal about the plot, only enough to know that I was really looking forward to reading the original source material. As such, I was a bit disappointed that it still doesn't beat Mort for best novel about Death so far. Much like Lords and Ladies though, that's not because of bad writing, but because the competition from other Discworld novels is so high. And there is so much to recommend Soul Music for. Susan is a bit more stiff than I remember her, but is still likeable and interesting to watch in Death's role, though she doesn't get as caught up in it as her dad did in Mort. Still love Albert, although his presence is fairly minimal in this book. The Death of Rats is properly introduced, and I love it so much. Probably the best part about Soul Music though is the way that the rock music community is so thoroughly and lovingly lampooned, with targets ranging from Elvis to overenthusiastic fans to bands who have spades more passion than talent, and, always my favourite, a surprising number of references to The Blues Brothers.
Not as good as Mort, but that doesn't stop Soul Music from being a fun romp, poking fun at everything rock and roll, from Elvis to Hair Metal. Definitely worth a read, especially if you're a fantasy and rock fan. 4/5
Next review: The Woven Ring by M. D. Presley