This book, which I hesitate to call a novel, is a rambling narrative, full of stories within stories, myths and legends blending into reality. Villoso has created a rich and detailed setting, populated with fully formed and empathetic characters, whose tiny lives are limned with precision.
However, this author has a habit of leaving out important information. While this is a good technique for creating suspense, when overdone it leaves readers confused. This problem is combined with a misuse of pronouns of the “He watched while he swung the sword at him, but it was knocked from his hands” variety (my own example, not from the book), leaving us even less sure of what is happening.
As a result it takes a long time to get connected to the characters, because there are so many of them, and it is hard to choose who we are supposed to be connecting with. Especially in the beginning, there are characters that we think we’re supposed to follow, and just as we get emotionally attached, they get killed.
This world is full of so many dangerous cultures with such a casual disrespect for the sanctity of life that deaths seem random. Be warned. The cover art on this book looks like that of a children’s book. It is not. There is an adult level of violence ready to crash into the most innocuous scene.
Reading this book is like being lost in a forest of lovingly crafted trees, jammed so close together that you can never step back and get an overall picture of how they fit together. Every so often a gust of wind from an unknown source lays one low, taking a few of its smaller neighbors down as well. We pause to mourn the destruction of such craftsmanship, then bumble on to the next tree, never knowing which path is the important one that will lead us to the end.
Full marks for world building, characters and scenery. No marks for communication of story line.(3 / 5)