This fantasy bears all the evidence of a universe created lovingly over decades, until the author finally felt ready to write stories set in it. This technique is a two-edged sword. While it makes for a lush, imaginative setting, usually the author is too much in love with his creation and doesn’t realize that readers are not so engaged. So, for example, we get two pages describing the seven primary ethnic categories of human civilization, complete with tongue-twisting names that we will never need to know again.
To give the novel universal scope, the story switches back and forth from the present conflict to a thousand years ago to follow the original epic creation conflict. This second plotline is less interesting than the main story, including a full chapter discussing whether a constitution is more like DNA or a seed. After a while, the switches become a distraction. The storyline readers want to follow is not strong enough to carry our attention through the other line the author wants us to hear about.
Also, the overly ornate language slows the reader. It is created casually, without much care for accuracy. It speaks of “the shoulders of her sari,” but a sari does not have shoulders. There are scientific inaccuracies, like assuming a planet with no rotation would be half populated. These are small errors but irritating when there are many of them. Words like “disincentivize” and “amorphousness” are scattered through the text along with superfluous editorial comments. “’A thousand,’ he said, repeating the number.” The dialogue just told us what he did. Telling us again is belabouring the obvious and drawing our attention out of the story, reminding us that there is an author manipulating it all.
Fortunately, there is a good present-day conflict and a moving love story in the rest of the book. As usually happens in these wide-ranging epics, the focus narrows as the final climax nears, and we spend more time with the characters we have learned to love. For a serial novel, it’s a great cliff-hanger ending, because while some of the loose strings are tied up, many of the questions we want answered are forwarded to the next issue. Which I hope will be a bit more focused,
This author has great potential when he learns to get out of his creation and consider the heads and hearts of his readers.
(3 / 5)
This review was first published in Reedsy Discovery.