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Pfaff writes a good magical world, full of intrigue and a clever magic system. The story itself here is great. I really liked the twists in it. I liked the magic system with its colour levels. I liked the depth of the world, with a deep history hinted at. The delivery of it was a bit lacking though.
Occasional clunky language was annoying. One that stuck in my mind was a sentence early on that read “It [his eye] was as artificial as the hand on the same side of his body”. Now that is fine, except that we have actually been told at this stage that his hand was artificial. Meaning that as far as we know both his hand and eye could be normal. The simile would still be correct, just really clunky. This was one example of many that just didn’t flow right or took me out of the story.
I enjoyed the characters, mostly. There are times when I didn’t find their actions believable; things such as a very secretive assassin pours out his life story to someone he just met and barely knows. Again, the back story to the character was great and interesting, but the way in which it was delivered was problematic. There are many instances of ‘awkward exposition’ in the book, like Pfaff has great ideas but couldn’t work out a more natural was for those ideas/history/world building to be expressed. Another example would be the constant moving around the world. Pfaff has a fully realised world, but then has to show it to us. He can’t just hint at it, or show us one place in detail but has to have the characters move constantly to show us broad brush strokes of the world. We get a little bit of everywhere rather than in depth in a few places. And I’m not sure that the constant travelling really serves the story. I think most of the story could have been done with less locations. The way it ended suggests the next book shall be more travelling.
Overall, I think the author has great potential, considering the world and characters he has created. Because of that I can (mostly) get past the occasional annoyance of the writing.
The narrator, Monkey Wraith, caused me more issues with the book. I think possibly if it had been a different narrator I wouldn’t have noticed the issues above as much. The narration is generally fairly bland, with little distinction for characters. This is especially problematic when one character talks physically into another’s head and its actually hard to tell which character it is. Is it the person thinking, or the psychic voice? One exception to this flat narration was at one point a chapter starts with a “highbrow” sort of sound when talking about Ylin Reach. It was a strange departure from the previous chapter’s narration, so I expected it was for a reason – change of character/scene type thing – but no, it was continuing with the same characters on their journey. Fairly quickly the ‘highbrow’ sounds faded back to the normal narration. Just seemed strange. In the end the narration was more of a hindrance than a help in getting into the book.
There were small issues with the sound production too. At least twice there is the start of a sentence, then a pause and then the sentence restarts. Obviously the narrator stopped and restarted and it wasn’t picked up in post productions.
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