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Trysmoon Book 4: Sacrifice (The Trysmoon Saga)

Fantasy Book Review

Fantasy Book Review

I did a previous review on the first book of this series and have waited until completing the last to do a final review.  I was incredibly impressed with the first book.  One of my big concerns in the first review was how powerful the primary protagonist, Gen, became and the heights he achieved early in the series.  This often becomes a big barrier to keeping the story interesting as the plot progress.  Fuller answered that challenge nicely by continuously throwing our hero under the bus both in matters of destiny and matters of the heart.

Any good series like this is always built first on the solid foundation of character development by using the relationships these characters have with each other.  This saga was rich with these.  One of the more interesting relationships was the love triangle between Gen, the Chalaine and the Chalaine’s mother, Mirelle.  This was something right out of any college kid’s fantasy.  Mirelle makes no excuses for trying to Mrs. Robinson her way into Gen’s pants.  She is obviously one of the hottest milfs out there so, really, she provides an ethical dilemma that only one of Gen’s character and dedication can manage to navigate through without giving up his own ethical compass.  This achievement is made even more extraordinary when you consider that the Chalaine is not giving up the goods in the first place.  This borders a little on the unbelievable until you make the conscious decision to just roll with it and accept it as part of the fantasy.

The relationship with the Chertanne is also an enjoyable one.  The Chertanne is the character that is supposed to be the savior and focus of the prophesy that bails mankind out of the upcoming apocalyptically bad time floating just over the horizon.  You learn, even in the first book, that he is nothing but an entitled little prick.  The slightly unbelievable thing about this character is his inability to evolve into someone with even one iota of likability. This is true even after he gets sent, quite literally, to hell.  The interesting thing about the relationship between Gen and the Chertanne is that Gen does a wonderful job of turning almost everyone with a shred of common sense against the personality failures of the Chertanne simply by being the polar opposite in both deed and word.  This is incredibly satisfying but a little naively idealistic when one considers the current breed of politician we are forced to stomach in our real world that thrive in a system that doesn’t seem to be able to hold any of these entitled pricks accountable.  I guess that’s why we read this type of fiction in the first place.

There are misses on the relationship side as well though.  I think the biggest miss is the relationship between Gen and his former mentor/tormentor the Shadan, Torbrand.  The Shadan is the ruthless lunatic that gave Gen his training and resistance to pain by keeping the threat of his friends lives over his head as he treated him like a practice dummy.  However, when the odds are against both of these gentlemen in a desperate last stand, they act like BFFs once removed without any of the former antagonism that should rightly exist.  I know Gen is the forgiving type, but come on.  There are other misses along the way too like the Dason relationship and the non factor that Gen’s former flame becomes as the book progresses but none of these are significant enough to make the story un-enjoyable.

The plot charges forward nicely throughout the entire series with only a couple of lulls where it looks like Fuller is looking for something for the characters to do.  But again, these aren’t enough of a slowdown to keep you moving with the characters.  The twists that Fuller continues to add to the prophetic paradigm as he twists the prophecy into something much more dynamic are well worth the read.  This makes the too simple good vs. evil dynamic much more interesting.  The closing chapters are also satisfying as the Fuller wraps up the closing lines of the prophecy as well as turning the love triangle into more of a straight line.

All in all, a good series well worth the time investment.

Of Shadow & Sea (The Elder Empire: First Shadow)

This is really just a continuation of the previous review.  Of Shadow & Sea is the sister novel to of Sea & Shadow and it’s very obvious that Will Wight shines much brighter when he’s in the dark.  Just like in the Traveler’s Gate trilogy, the dark characters in this novel are much more interesting.  Calder Marten has his moments as the lovable rogue but you never see the complexity experienced by those that grow up in Shadow.  The back stories are more interesting, the subplots are more engrossing and the interplay between the characters seems more genuine and feels like there is more at stake for each of them.

Granted, this may all be because I was already introduced to the world by the sister novel and so didn’t have to multitask between understanding new concepts while gradually getting to know the characters.  But I don’t think that’s it.  I think that Wight likes these characters more because they are counter culture and the life of an assassin clearly floats his boat more than, well, an intrepid seaman.

Our main character in the book is Shera.  Shera never had an easy life.  We are introduced to her as a young street thug.  On the streets, she is the ultimate survivor in that ruthless killing doesn’t seem to phase her one bit.  I spent much of the novel wondering if her complete lack of empathy was a survival mechanism or some form of autism or flat out psychopathy.  One of her less endearing characteristics is that she can and will fall asleep at any opportunity.  I found this a little annoying at first but as the book evolved, I believe that this constant semi-narcolepsy was really her escape mechanism.

While the author does not dive too deeply in to the messed up psychology of a trained killer, he also doesn’t shy away from it.  We often find ourselves right there with Shera as she is asking herself ‘why don’t I feel bad about doing these terrible things?’.  These are the right questions, the hard questions that bring about a true connection with the reader.  None of these emotions are resolved in the first book and near the end there is obvious foreshadowing that the complexity of these interactions is just going to grow.  That’s a good thing.

Shera’s supporting cast is much better developed than Calder’s.  I care much more about what happens to Meia and Lucan than I ever did about Calder’s crew.  Calder’s crew were more photographic archetypes, who looked like they had depth at a distance but we never got the pleasure to cross the velvet line and look at em up close to see the cracks and blemishes that make art all the more interesting.  Meia and Lucan were also deeply flawed characters and I mean that in the most complementary way.  Flaws open the door for conflict and all good books need conflict to keep you engaged.  That’s part of the reason why the interplay between this threesome is interesting and natural.

I also got the pleasure of knowing what was going to happen at the end of the novel but experiencing it from a different viewpoint.  This is risky because if the reader knows what is going to happen at the end, you may lose them early.  The risk pays off though because you get to understand how perspective makes all the difference in any story.  Whether in real life or fiction, perspective makes the same story feel totally new.

Looking forward to the next books.

Trysmoon Book 1: Ascension (The Trysmoon Saga)

Wow.  I have never read anything from Fuller before but he knows how to spin a story.  The first novel is somewhat formulaic but he fills in all the variables of the formula brilliantly.  You know the one: boy from small woodcutting village has something traumatic happen to him that puts him in the cross-hairs of glory.  He goes through a training montage that is followed by his first opportunity to prove his training in a very public way.  This leads to a career that narrows the glory target to the center of the forehead.  Oh yeah, and there’s a prophecy out there that involves him indirectly at first but more directly as we progress.

The formula is not very new but there is a reason why this formula is used in the first place.  It let’s the reader grow with the protagonist in the way that makes you think ‘yeah, I would have done it that way’ and let’s you live in another’s boots for a while.

The nice thing about Fuller’s adaptation of the formula is that he turns it gritty and painful right out of the gate.  This seems to be the trend of good fantasy these days.  This was made popular by George R.R. Martin way back in the Game of Thrones days well before HBO took it to non fantasy nerds.  It’s a good trend.  No major character is invincible from the the author’s ability to make a point.  Fuller wields the butcher’s pen well in the first book of Ascension.

The only way characters grow in any novel is when they are faced with real pain.  The main character Gen gets massive doses of it as soon as the starting whistle is blown.  This pain molds him into a weapon.  Thanks to his pre-weapon days as a bard, our young hero values intelligence over brawn.  This background, coupled with some mystical training turns Gen into a force to reckon with.

You get to experience that reckoning in a public contest of arms when Gen gets to compete for the right to join the Dark Guard.  The Dark Guard protect the major players of the prophecy, who are meant to save mankind from the apocalypse on the horizon. In the contest Gen kicks the crap out of the competition even though the odds seemed stacked against him.  This lands him a spot close to the prophecy and all the intrigue that comes with it.

I’m looking forward to continuing the series.  My only concern at this point is that the main character gets too one-dimensional.  Gen grows so quickly in the first book that there is a risk that he will have nothing else to grow into.  That always leads to disaster – can’t wait to see how Fuller handles it.

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