Note from Jefferson: Due to an administrative snafu, both Bryce and I tackled the same book, and each came away with different findings. But rather than cramming the second review bound and gagged into the trunk of my car, I think it’s instructive to leave it free and treat the situation as a case study. At the very least it demonstrates how two different readers can react quite differently to the same book.
We’re treating this as a “minority report,” submitted from the bad-Spock universe. (Hence the reversed colors in the score card. :-) For comparison, here’s Jefferson’s review from a couple of weeks ago, which lasted 13:26. Is Bryce a credulous pushover? Is Jefferson a jaded curmudgeon? We’ll let you decide. We now return you to Bryce’s commentary, joined in progress.
What I gleaned about the story: When the love of your life lies in poison-halting stasis, you do whatever it takes. Even if it means going home.
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This forest had always fit like a well-worn cloak. But tonight, the way the forest wrapped around felt familiar, but not quite comfortable, as though it remembered wrapping around a slightly different shape.[…]
The hope was too fragile, like the new skin of ice over a pond. Just the effort of shaping it into words could shatter it.[…]
After what I have done, I can no longer call myself a Keeper. There are decisions that can’t be unmade, paths that cannot be unchosen, choices that change us too much for us to ever change back.[…]
With each day, we decide anew who we are, what we will grow toward.
There’s not a whole lot to say here. These lines (and several more) really resonated with me. A sprinkling of good, thought-provoking lines does a lot to earn the reader’s trust.
Analysis: Kordan [had] lived there for some time doing experiments.
The narrative is talking about past events at the moment, so past perfect is necessary. A tiny pothole on the road to adventure! Onward!
Analysis: After he enters the Keep, Alaric decides to visit the Wellstone. It’s a galling bargain for someone who’s already disillusioned with his order: he must trade his memories since his last visit for the Wellstone’s memories which may save his dying wife. Flashback time!
Flashbacks are easy to botch, but this set worked for me. Since we already know how Alaric and his wife turn out (and the price he’s willing to pay to save her) the scene where they meet is poignant without even trying. Andrews doesn’t go overboard with the flashbackery either: a few pages, then we’re back in the present and Alaric is moving forward on his journey. We see the past, but we don’t get mired in it.
The book has me hooked on several fronts. The magic system is interesting, with each use exacting a price. The magical memory repository has some interesting quirks. Alaric’s returning hat-in-hand to an order he’d once turned his back on, which is a captivating dynamic. I’m invested in the protagonist’s goals, yet rooting for his horse to get the better of him. Threat is off to a strong start.
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