I’d bought this novel a while back after discovering it on Ty Johnston’s 2011 blog tour, but I hadn’t had a chance to read it when I got an email from the author asking if I would be interested in reviewing it. I’d like to thank Moses Siregar III for sending me a revised edition of the novel, as well as an apology since I told him this review would be done last month. (Also thanks to Ty Johnston for his blog tour. I discovered some new writers I’m looking forward to reading.)
Anyway, this was a compelling novel with a strong nonwestern feel to it. I found that rather refreshing.
Here’s the basic set-up (and all you’re going to get from me is the set-up since there are some plot twists I don’t want to spoil):
The kingdom of Rezzia is in the process of invading Pawelon. It’s been a decade long process. The king of Rezzia has two children, Lucia (a daughter) and Caio (a son), who is ten years younger than his sister. From birth Caio has been recognized as a Haizzem, which means he’s been selected by the gods to be the military and spiritual leader of the kingdom. Most of the novel takes place when Caio is nearly 20 and has fully taken up the mantle of Haizzem. He and his protector Ilario have gone to the front to lead the forces of Rezzia to victory. Ilario and Lucia are in love, although at this point neither has expressed feelings openly. When Caio was born, Lucia saw Danato, the god of the dead kill her mother. For years, he’s been her companion, unseen and unheard by everyone else, promising her there’s a reason for all things.
Meanwhile, Rao is the youngest and only surviving son of the Rajah of Pawelon. He and his friend Aayu are sages. Although they’ve been forbidden to come to the front, they leave for it, believing they have discovered new spiritual weapons that will help them win the war and break the deadlock. Rao is the lover Narayani, Aayu’s cousin and the daughter of his father’s top general.
With all the family relationships, I’m sure you can see the great potential for tragedy. All I’ll say is that not everyone will survive to the end. That and there’s a reason for everything happening.
And speaking of Narayani, I couldn’t stand her through most of the book. She came across to me as spoiled, selfish, and bratty, someone who was concerned with what she wanted. Someone who caused trouble because she only thought of herself. I don’t care to be around those types of people, and I didn’t care for her.
While it may not seem like it on the surface, the previous paragraph was high praise for Mr. Siregar. Mediocre writers create blah characters. Superior writers create characters who produce strong reactions in readers, whether those reactions are love, hate, or a mixture of both. That he was able to create such a character, and such a reaction in this reader, speaks highly of his skill. And by the time the book was over, I very much cared what happened to Narayani.
The other thing I liked was how the gods aided, meddled, or tormented, depending on your point of view. This novel was written in part as an homage to The Iliad. Any time the gods starting showing up, things got interesting.
The combat scenes were well choreographed. They were also unpredictable. The interactions between the characters were complex, just like the characters themselves. This was a compelling novel that was hard to put down. It kept me up late more than one night.
This is one you’ll want to check out. I have to say I’m not sure what the price is on the electronic edition. I found three different prices when I was putting in the links for the different electronic editions. Even at the highest price, $4.99, this is a good buy.
Also, I thought it was a nice touch that the author included excerpts from four fantasy novels by authors I’d not heard of. The excerpts were intriguing enough that I’ll be buying those books as well. This approach is a good was to discover new writers as well as a great way for writers to help each other promote their books.
This is the first volume of Splendor and Ruin. I’m not sure where Siregar is going to go with the next volume since this was pretty much a stand-alone novel. Not that it matters. I intend to follow.