Thursday, June 04, 2009

“The Edge of the World”, by Kevin J. Anderson (Orbit)


An exceptional start to a new fantasy series from an established master

Two nations, separated by history and religion, but physically joined by a narrow isthmus, on which lies the holiest city for them both. Traditional enemies, the two nations forge an uneasy peace, an Edict consecrated with the blood of their leaders on their most holy of shared relics.

A tragic accident during the peace ceremonies and revelries in the holy city of Ishalem, lead to irrevocable acts of misguided revenge and the world descends into bloody, vicious war. As guerilla, hit-and-run conflict rages across the two continents, King Korastine of the Tierrans unveils his greatest project – the majestic ship Luminara, commissioned to explore and chart those regions of the world designated “Terra Incognita”, marked only by the words “here be monsters”.

This is a gripping and immersive tale of war, adventure, sacrifice, loss, Machiavellian politics, revenge, and tragedy.

The Edge of the World is that rare fantasy novel that hooks you from the very beginning. Even though Anderson is creating a whole new world, the reader is never left feeling lost, and we quickly feel at home with his characters (so much so, that even minor characters who are killed off are a surprise). The story is told from a number of perspectives, each from different strata of Tierran and Urbecan society, with their own unique views and approach to the world around them – the rulers of the two nations and their offspring, witnessing events spiral out of control; Criston Vora, a young shipman on the Luminara; Adrea, Criston’s new wife, taken captive by Uraban raiders; Hannes, a former spy for Tierra’s church of Aiden, horribly burned and in the custody of an Uraban queen, trying to get home and serve his own, brutal version of his religion.

It’s very difficult to review this book: if I were to go into much detail, it would require describing and spoiling a good deal of the plot. Needless to say, the work and imagination Anderson has poured into the novel is impressive. Over the course of the novel he slowly builds our understanding of the three cultures (two previously mentioned and also the Saedran) and the people within. It is a fascinating world, and one that can’t fail to offer endless possibilities for the future.

What’s particularly interesting about this world and this novel, is Anderson’s ability to make the world feel familiar, even though it is so very different from our own. Universal issues, such as loss, religious zeal, love and vengeance are all major parts of Anderson’s story. The trials his characters endure help shape them and their trajectory through the story, each thread connecting at some point, just the right moment to send things in a new direction (particularly towards the end of the novel). Best of all, he’s managed to avoid pretty much every fantasy cliché, which makes for a highly original novel.

The author has managed to get the balance between the various strands right, and doesn’t chop and change too frequently between them. Rather, he gives us just enough to keep us reading, to keep engaged and involved with the story, and also enough to become attached to all his characters. As the story progresses, over the span of a couple of decades, you will find yourself immersed in the story, eager to find out what happens, but equally not wanting it to end (that this is “book one” means it won’t end – at least for a long while, anyway).

Without doubt one of the best new fantasy series in many years, it belongs alongside the greats of the genre. From Anderson, who has written 46 international bestsellers, one would expect little else. Easily the most engaging fantasy novel released this year (thus far), and an immediate favourite of mine.

An engrossing, sweeping fantasy epic, The Edge of the World is essential reading for all.

Also try: Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, Richard Morgan, Brian Ruckley, Robert V.S. Redick

No comments:

Post a Comment