Pros: Amazing world building; fantastic characters; fast plot plus head-twisting theology
Rating: 5 out of 5
Also posted on Epinions.com.
Thanks to being a reviewer, I ended up reading Fiona Patton’s The Golden Tower, which is book two of her The Warriors of Estavia series, first. While she writes her books well enough that you can definitely get away with this, the series is so wholly amazing that I highly recommend starting from the beginning: with The Silver Lake.
I end up discovering so many series part-way through thanks to reviewing that there’s simply no way I can go back and catch up on all the ones that I enjoy. Fiona Patton’s books, however, were a no-brainer: I had to read the whole series! Not only that, but I’ve delayed reviewing The Silver Lake because I don’t entirely feel up to the task of giving it as good a review as it deserves.
Anavatan, the magical city of the gods, rests on the shore of shining Gol-Beyaz, the Silver Lake. The city is surrounded by a nearly invisible wall of magic that protects all who dwell here from both the nomadic human invaders and the hungry spirits that are drawn to the living energies of the Silver Lake. It is here in the heart of Gol-Beyaz that, long ago, the Gods were born, the six Immortal Patrons of Anavatan, and of all who dwell within the city’s walls. Or almost all. For there are still those—thieves, street urchins, and the like—who have not given their allegiance to any of Anavatan’s deities.
This year, during the three-night-long chaos known as Havo’s Dance, three young street orphans—Spar, Brax, and Graize—have been chosen for special attention by Incasa. When that God’s dice roll during the height of Havo’s Dance, these three boys—thieves and con artists all—will discover their destinies. Each will take the first tentative steps toward fates that could change the future of their world…
I know I usually try to put a book’s premise in my own words, but the task of living up to reviewing this one is enough that I figured I’d make it a little easier on myself. Especially since this is one of the better back-cover summaries I’ve seen.
You can take it as a given that most of the usual things I talk about are handled wonderfully in The Silver Lake: characterization, pacing, setting; all are rich and amazing. I feel as though it would be superfluous to spend much space on them this time. The one thing I do want to note, however, is something that also came up in The Golden Tower: Fiona excels at telling parts of her story from the point of view of someone who would normally be considered a villain, without alienating her readers—her characters are simply too interesting to fit into easy slots in that way.
This series uses a fair number of capitalized and made-up words, which in many authors’ hands is a sign of a not-so-good book, but Fiona Patton uses them the way they should be used. Every capitalized word feels like something the characters in the book would consider a proper term in need of capitalization. Every made-up word represents a concept that is easier to discuss and use within the story if it’s referred to with one word, and that doesn’t have a good immediate analogue in the English language. For instance, familial and working relationships are very different in Anavatan than they are here, and are highly intertwined. The use of specific terms for these different relationships helps the reader to become better immersed within the story world.
Fiona delves so deeply into her world of gods and relationships that this book could have been primarily a theoretical discourse on theology and relationships and the links between them and I still would have found it fascinating. She then also turns it into a pulse-pounding adventure with deadly battles from the smallest knife-fight to an entire raid on a village, and whole nations pitted against each other. She seamlessly stretches levels of head-twisting theory onto a solid framework of peril, love, and hatred.
If you pick up one series this year, let it be this one.
[Standard adult material warning: moderate sexual content. If you're easily offended by same-sex relationships, this isn't the book for you.]