Pros: Fascinating world and government
Cons: I don’t always find politics riveting
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Review book provided by publisher.
Dave Duncan’s Irona 700 takes place in his own fantasy world–magic exists, religion controls a lot of things, and evil is very very real. We find ourselves following Irona. She’s 16 this year (the year 700) and must participate in ‘the Choosing’. In a day-long event that sees people collapsing from heat exhaustion, she’s one of many, many people following a long line up to the statue of Caprice, taking a token from a box, tossing it to the statue… and each year, one person’s coin stays in Caprice’s hands, and that person is Chosen. The Chosen are collectively known at the Seventy, and they act as the government. The politicking is crazy, with Chosen helping and screwing each other over right and left. Irona, who has reason to think the Choosing is rigged, is less than thrilled at the prospect. Still, she settles in, discovers a knack for the crazy politics, and ends up leading a handful of war efforts that make her a celebrity.
Politics plots are rarely my favorites. Favor-trading and betrayals over votes don’t tend to do it for me. That said, I enjoyed Irona 700. Some of the politicking held my interest, and there was plenty more going on. Irona is a fascinating main character to follow. While it’s no longer entirely unusual for a book to have a not-so-likable main character, it does still seem unusual to see a woman playing that role. Especially when it takes time to really build up into an understanding of how she isn’t so much like the rest of us after all. Duncan builds that up so skillfully, particularly in comparison to some of the other characters.
I probably wouldn’t read a sequel–pure reader’s preference, as people who like politics plots would almost certainly get more out of Irona 700 than I did. However, if Duncan has books that are less politics-oriented I’d absolutely be interested in reading them. He has a decent hand at pacing and at twisted plotting. His world has some interesting aspects to it, such as how magic works, how hard it is to come by, and what happens when it’s messed with. I’d like to have seen a bit more of that, to have a better understanding of how it did and didn’t work before events went south. But overall, I think Duncan did a good job with this one.