Woohoo, it’s finally here 🙂 I have a bad headache (mostly because I’ve been helping the BF fill in a form for a German firm that required such a high degree of detail that my eyes started to cross).
–The Fade by Chris Wooding: on a planet where sunlight is deadly, the population has migrated underground, waging its bloody internecine war across huge caves and inner seas. Orna is one of the Cadre, bondsmen who serve their aristocrat masters by being bodyguards, assassins and spies. In a particularly disastrous battle, she loses her husband and is captured, taken to an impregnable stronghold of the enemy where she is only kept alive as long as she can give her captors information. Orna has every intention of escaping to find her son–but when she does so, she only finds herself swept back into the deadly power games of the aristocracy…
This is short and intense, more concerned by the delights of its baroque society than by any hard science (there’s hardly any description of the planet, and the societies have mostly regressed to feudal). The character of Orna, driven through the novel both by her despair and her growing awareness of her slavery, is a very powerful one with a potent voice. It moves at a fast clip and culminates in a neat twist ending that had me flipping back through the pages to see all the little clues I had missed.
If I had one quibble, it’s the backward narration interleaved between the book, taking up about a quarter of it. While it does make both for tragical ironies and nifty filling in, I felt that as we moved too far back in time, it began losing its interest, going over old ground, and failing to climax in anything intense enough to justify the backward arrow. The only book I can compare this with is Ian M. Bank’s superb Use of Weapons, where the backward narration culminates in a very nasty twist that echoes back into the present situation. Here, we just have scenes that feel extraneous because they only reveal what we have already inferred throughout the main story.
But still, it’s a pretty good book, well worth the read.
They ran the girl down, in the grey light of dawn: a ring of copper-mailed horsemen, racing after her until her exhaustion finally felled her.
Yudhyana sat on his horse, shivering in the cold morning air, and thought of home–of the narrow, spice-filled streets of Rasamuri, and of his daughters shrieking with delight as he raced them in the courtyard. Anything to prevent him from focusing on what was happening.
Afterwards, they tied the girl’s unconscious body to the saddle of a white mare. Pakshman, Yudhyana’s second-in-command, nodded at him, waiting for orders.
“Back to the city,” Yudhyana said. His gaze was on the plains, sloping down to the river Kuni–and the cloud of dust that marked the advance of the Sharwah army.
-Sold “Safe, Child, Safe”, an Acalt short story (sequel to “Obsidian Shards”), to Talebones. Thanks to everyone who critted this: Marshall Payne, who does tremendously helpful line edits as usual, everyone who took a look at it on Liberty Hall (I haven’t saved the crits, but I remember tchernabyelo offered tremendous help on plot points), and the OWWers: the awesome Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Linda Steele, and Tara Lynn McFadden. Extra special thanks for this one go to Ken Scholes, who badgered me into submitting to Talebones, and to Patrick Swenson for accepting this.
I knew something was wrong with the child as soon as his father brought him to me.
He was perhaps four, five years old, and everything about him was high-born Mexica: his tunic of cotton embroidered with leaping deer; his skin the colour of cacao bean; his hair as dark as congealed blood. He lay on the reed mat in my temple, shivering; his feverish eyes turned to me and yet did not see me.
That was not what made the hairs on my nape rise.
No, what made me pause was what I saw clinging to his hands and feet: a green, pulsing aura that brought with it the smell of rotting leaves and mouldy earth.