Ron C. Nieto
on Sep. 1, 2011 :
Remember when I reviewed The Black God’s War – a novella? Remember how I said it was an elegant, great tale and I’d be looking forward to the whole novel? Well, finally, I got my hands on it.
And I couldn’t let it go.
Most of what I said about quality holds in this stand alone novel, but on a different level altogether. For example, characters were deep, well developed and had a purpose, a reason to act as they did beyond “fulfilling the plot”. But after reading the first instalment of Splendour and Ruin, I feel they are more than just three-dimensional characters. They are human. They change and evolve and mature in reaction to the plot, and they take believable action. Because of this, we have a hard time deciding who’s evil and who’s the good guy: in fact, by the time the book was done, I had switched sides about four times! Why? Because there’s no conflict for conflict’s sake: there’s people who is trying to do the best they can, and whose goals happen to collide. Fantasy is leaning towards this view as of late, perhaps, but it’s still rare to see an author who can make us feel for both sides with equal sympathy.
That is not to say I didn’t have a favorite character, or a character whose death I’d not regret (or, more accurately, would plot for) but I could understand them even when I screamed for them not to do something. And that’s another great point: when the plot took a nasty turn or my favourite character... didn’t have much going for him, I’d not wonder, “Why did you have to do this, Mr Siregar?” but “Damned, stupid war!”. It was that kind of real, if that’s the right word for an outstanding fantasy.
While characters are fundamental, the story was fast-paced and action-filled, with short respites and ever-building tension. As I commented before, Moses Siregar III is touching some very thought-provoking themes in his book but he’s not forceful about imparting a message: he allows the story to move forward, weaving it with threads of the reality of war, of fanatism, of what it takes to break one’s innocence, of how far one would go for revenge, or (my favorite) whether love comes before doing the right thing. And then, you can choose to see those threads and to follow them on your own, or to just admire the tapestry (which is one hell of a masterpiece, if I may say so). I particularly loved this aspect, and I’d probably enjoy just pointing out different thoughts and aspects I picked up or I ended up reflecting upon, but I think it’s better if you pick up the book yourself and let it talk to you. I’m sure it’ll tell you something different from what I learned.
Now, to indulge my inner geek, a side comment on references. Remember when I said that chapter titles and flow, as well as the gods, reminded me a bit of classic literature? Well, after writing that review I went and listened to this interview, and I learned that Moses Siregar loves the Illiad (almost as much as I do, apparently) and had actually planted small homage-like references in his book. If you don’t like Homer this won’t sway you one bit (though I don’t know why you’d not like him), but if you do, it was a pleasure to read and try to find those bits and pieces, and wonder whether this scene might refer to that other scene, and so on and so forth.
Okay, now that I said that and I’m happy, I can say in short that I, obviously, recommend reading this book. There’s not a single thing I’d change about it (except, perhaps, I’d have liked the part of Caio’s romance to take a bit longer). The editing is very good and you won’t find bothersome mistakes or typos. The style flows and is well paced, catering to action and development.
And it should make you grow as a person or, at least, think.
So, what are you waiting for?
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
on Aug. 1, 2011 :
This newly released epic fantasy by Moses Siregar III takes the novella of this same name and expands it to a full-length novel. The author does a fantastic job really fleshing out the culture of each tribe, and the personalities of the important players. As a result, my sympathies didn’t fall squarely on one side or the other. In fact, I was conflicted about who should win this war, and that really added to my investment in this story. I was no longer just a reader, I was involved.
With well-defined main characters, I was really able to feel I knew them through their actions and thoughts as well as their words. Inside each of them rested both positive and negative qualities, rounding them out to make them realistic and whole. There were quite a few unexpected events in this book. I loved that I couldn’t predict anything, and I read in disbelief as unexpected things happened. The ending felt very complete in itself, and it left me anxious to discover where we were headed in the next book. The epic war waged in the story resembled any number of wars battled in our own history for similar reasons. Diverse beliefs are the ultimate battleground, and this book does a good job of making it clear that “right” is perhaps not always easy to discern.
As with the novella, this book is well-written and the pacing is excellent. Although the beginning felt a bit slow, I was quickly engaged in the adventure. The number of characters could be overwhelming at times, however, and sometimes I lost track of the more minor characters. The author uses italics to show the thoughts of many of the main characters throughout the book, and some were placed in such a way that caused me to question who was thinking. Small points, but clarification in these two areas would have made less work for the reader.
I can’t stop thinking about the characters and their journeys. I find myself contemplating the messages that were delivered (whether overtly or veiled). Overall, I find I really can’t stop thinking about this story. Unforgettable story, intriguing characters, compelling journey with unexpected twists- in short, a very satisfying and engaging read. Isn’t that why we read for pleasure?
Full review @ GraceKrispy's MotherLode blog
(reviewed the day of purchase)