♦ The Story ♦
Imagine South America in the 15th century. Great stepped pyramids, tropical jungles, fertile plains. A peaceful land where conflict is restricted to the occasional clan dispute. Now stop right there because that is where history as we know it ends and Liliana Bodoc’s magical world begins. Alternate history barely describes this story. This is a new world, a world ruled by magic and stalked by evil.
♦ My Thoughts ♦
I read this book from cover to cover and honestly I’m having trouble reviewing it. Either I have been just too distracted lately or I missed something because I just didn’t get it. I spent the whole book pretty much confused and detached. But that is OK because most of the characters had no idea what they were doing either.
Part of the problem was the over-hype. This author is being referred to as the “Tolkien of the Americas.” I don’t see it myself. I lived Tolkien’s works. I was a distant observer at best in this book.
Throughout events felt so distant. There is a definite storytelling feel to this story. Problem is, it also felt like the players were learning their lines as they went along. Emotions were observed but not felt. Characters had personalities but they felt dry and lifeless. There is a solid story here but if you love character-driven fantasy, this definitely isn’t it.
♦ What I Liked ♦
I liked the mythology behind the story. I enjoyed the straight forward conflict of good versus evil. And I had a great admiration for the natives who not only lived off the land but treated it with respect and appreciation.
The worldbuilding was, at times, beautifully portrayed. Liliana Bodoc obviously loves her home and takes great pains to recreate its past only with lots of magic.
♦ What I didn’t like ♦
Almost the entire story hinges around the fact that the astrologers can no longer determine the future. They know ships are coming but they have no idea who occupies those ships. It could be the ultimate source of all evil, or it could be the North Americans returning from the “ancient lands.” Since they have no idea who is coming, they don’t know what to do; prepare a homecoming or prepare for war.
The majority of this book is spent in endless debate, talk, doubletalk, hidden agendas, secret meetings, then more debate. I was just as lost as the characters were. I kept waiting for something to be resolved and the debate just kept running around in circles. By the time there was any action, my brain was numb. But I was still looking for the promised Tolkien quality so I kept reading. I never found it. Closest I got was the one Earth wizard who appeared to be the only guy with a clue but he spends very little time in the foreground. Everytime he shows up, he saves the day then rushes back off to do who knows what somewhere else.
There is one other little thing, barely worth mentioning but it bugged me for some reason. Sometimes the terminology used felt off. For example, when introduced to horses for the first time the natives decided to call them “animals with manes.” Really? How exactly would they even know what a mane was? I could be wrong but I don’t believe there are any animals native to South America that had manes. But, in defense of the novel, maybe something got lost in translation. Maybe they made up a word on the spot to describe manes. The phrase just felt off and unwieldy to me.
There were other things that threw me off stride but I’ll be pushing into spoiler land if I discuss those and I really try not to do that.
♦ Conclusion ♦
Unfortunately I have to rate this book as OK but nothing special. I know Liliana Bodoc made this world her own. However, while I recognized some connections between our world and hers, I feel like there were more I just didn’t see. It could be that the disconnection I felt was due to a lack of knowledge on my part and not the fault of the book at all. But, as I discussed before, that wasn’t my only problem. The characters felt one dimensional. The most interesting character made only a few appearances and I really believe I would have enjoyed this story more if I could have tagged along with him instead of all the others.
This may be worth checking out as an alternative to medieval based fantasy. There are other reviews besides mine that thought it was wonderful. All I can say is it just wasn’t my cuppa tea.
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