This book is an unbelievably inventive and plot twisty sort of epic fantasy that is at once peculiar, original, fresh, and fun.
Deceiver begins with the 'Wahooo!' of Skye, a settler to someplace unburdened with the history, greed or machinations of typical expansionist European empires, and his near-death ascension to the summit of Misty, the sentient mountain. Along with Misty, Skye also has the unique opportunity to meet Igneous, the forthright, yet cheerful caretaker beneath the mountains. He quickly gets a crash course in saving the world, and then literally gets a crash course in leaving Misty. Near death again, Skye needs to save the Anasazi village before their chief, Bending Tree, succumbs to his injuries.
Conflicts abound in Deceiver, both from without and on the mountain… eventually pandhandlers come seeking Misty's riches while some malevolent force terrorizes Misty's inhabitants with sweet song and a rotten heart.
Chief among Deceiver's virtues is a beguiling ability to get the reader into the action from the word go. Using a somber, yet oddly hopeful and cheerful tone reminiscent of another generation, the author brings us to a world where hope is an endangered species, but the most important species of all, and where humor breaks out from unexpected places, like shafts of light on a cloudy day. Readers begin to feel the sort of Bradbury-like power of the author to evoke moods and emotions with seeming ease.
Characters are strongly written, beginning with Skye and proceeding on to the native Anasazi people, along with the naïve yet wise, funny yet ages-old Igneous, and later Toby and Erikson, who play dual roles as villains and comedy relief, an interesting mix. Later, even Mariah and her caretakers each have their unique voices and culture.
This tale is brimming with magic in a loosely defined age of exploration world (though there is a pretty sweet map), and yet this is far from the traditional sword and sorcery tale. Deceiver begins with promise, delivers, and transforms into something else entirely in just a few hundred pages. Yet throughout, the same tones and subtext run just beneath the surface, binding three separate acts together into a strong unified whole. Another reviewer likened this to a Native American folk tale, and I'll echo that apt observation here.
If there are any critiques to be made about the book, the first is that it seems rather full of thick vocabulary and sentence structures for a YA audience. The second is that the book, as part of a trilogy, eschews a resolution to the climax. Though a minor resolution does occur, there doesn't seem enough of a recovery or 'falling action' or whatever one might call it. And while the Deceiver itself is undeniably a part of the book, and an important one, its role is only just ramping up by the end of the book.
The good news is that you don't have to wait for the continuation of the tale. Redeemer, book 2, is already available.
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)