Lamentation Review

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Here we go with another new author, lucky us! This is not his first work but it's Ken Scholes first novel. I had not read any reviews before starting this book so I didn't know what to expect. I was happily satisfied!

The book begins with the complete destruction of the city of Windwir, the center of the Named Lands and home of the Androfrancine Order. This catastrophe is unknowingly caused by Mechoservitor Number Three. Nebios, a young apprentice is the only human witness of the devastation. The desolation of Windwir will attract Rudolfo, the Gypsy king, Sethbert, the Overseer of the Entrolusian City States, Jin Li Tam, the consort of Sethbert, Petronus, the hidden pope, and all their followers. Alliances will form, everybody will plot and war will follow.

This is a character driven story and it's well done. We follow 5 or 6 PoV (actually pretty different in tone) and none of them are boring. I grew attached to the protagonists very fast. Some of them are a little bit stereo-typical, like the Gypsy king, who is the free spirited "rebel" leader and the mechoservitor (an android) who "emotionally" wakes up. Speaking of Rudolfo, I feel that he's getting too close to perfection. But then, I think the author really wanted him that way and a good part of the story is about explaining why. In a few words, the story is mostly about how people can be shaped the way they are by someone with a grand design.

As I said, the narrative is done with about 5 or 6 PoV. All of them are thinking a lot. It's a bit repetitive in some instances but it's a substantial access into their mind. There's action but I don't sense it's the reason to read the book. Most of the storytelling is about the motivations of the characters. Almost everybody seems to be clever except for Sethbert and one of them is ultimately the god of cleverness.

The world building is finely integrated within the descriptions. The history of the land is rich and we learn about it throughout the story. However, I would have liked to know more about the world outside the Named Lands since it's referred to a couple of times. As for the magic, there's not much more than the special powders almost all the scouts (nearly all the soldiers are scouts) use to boost their skills and become invisible. There's talk about mighty ancient magic but the only use is the "Seven Cacophonic Deaths", the spell delivered by Isaak, the mechoservitor. These mechoservitor and all the "technology" in the book are a nice addition.

I found two uncommon details in this book. First, the characters eat at a regular rate, which is not really unusual, but each meal is thoroughly described (maybe just a little too much in my taste). Also, the city that is destroyed, Windwir, is the host of at least 200 000 people. Having numbers about the population and even then, to have cities of 200 000 people is not frequent.

Finally, religion has a decent place in the tale (the title being a proof). When you know about the background of Scholes, it's not really a surprise. It's mostly based on the old Catholic religion. But even if it's important, it's not the central theme.

Can't wait for Canticle!

Technically, the Tor Books cover is nice, illustrating the main scene of the story. The map is simple but enough for the small lacks of imagination. There's no appendix but the book doesn't need any.

Characterization............. 8 /10
World building............... 8 / 10
Magic system................. 7 / 10
Story.............................. 7.5 / 10
Writing........................... 8.5 / 10

Overall (not an average) 8 / 10


Ken Scholes page


Steven Till said...

Thanks for the review. I've heard pretty good things about this book. David Anthony Durham had a nice review of it over on his blog as well. I've heard it's kind of a mix between sci-fi and fantasy? Is it set in the future or the past(per typical fantasy setting)?

Phil said...

Always a pleasure!

The book is mostly fantasy, the sci-fi setting only includes some oddities like the robots (if you can call them robots, they are more like automatons).

It's set in a world in reconstruction (2000 years of it) after a big magical apocalypse. The technology was more evolved before the cataclysm. The people of the era in which the book is set are still discovering amazing artifacts.

So basically, it feels more like the past (per typical fantasy setting).

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