Sunday, March 27, 2016
The Branches of Time
Rating: 3.5 Stars
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
First, I'd like to provide the synopsis as was given to me by the author:
"The population of the island of Turios is mercilessly exterminated by the workings of black magic. Only Bashinoir, badly wounded, his wife Lil, and the Priestess Miril have survived. Determined to give their loved ones a worthy burial, the three soon discover that the corpses have disappeared. Their only hope for salvation now lies in the magical protection of the Temple, as sinister threats continue to pursue them. A shadow spreads over their hearts, dividing and destroying them, as their bodies appear to be fading away. Feeling increasingly isolated, Bashinoir watches as the two women grow closer…
In the Kingdom of Isk, wizards and wisemen alike must bow down before the insatiable King Beanor, whose greed for power and war is matched only by his hunger for sex. A young woman he has chosen as his next bride does not, however, wish to surrender her freedom to love and live. Will games and tricks under the sheets turn the tide in a war that has lasted thousands of years?"
Imagine that, another work of fiction. People who know me well are going to wonder what happened and where the real Sarah has gone. No worries though, it is still me. I was contacted by the author, Luca Rossi, via Twitter and he asked if I would be interested in a copy of the book. I decided to accept, despite the fact that science fiction/fantasy, etc are so NOT anything I am typically interested in. I am firmly ground in the here and now or, honestly, in medieval England. What got my attention though, was the tag line as seen on the cover, "Can you live knowing that those who love you never existed". It was intriguing to me, though I wish had taken a peek at the summary or prior reviews on Goodreads to have a heads-up about some of the more violent/sexual aspects of the book as related to King Beanor, who is a completely irredeemable and cruel despot who thinks of nothing but his own wants. Those mostly have to do with sex, and he has several wives who he treats horribly, as well as prostitutes who he thinks nothing of beheading in a flash of rage. He is also keen on destroying the barrier that keeps his kingdom isolated and annihilating those responsible for said barrier. He's awful, but I can not tell you whether or not he gets what he deserves - a slow and painful death - because that would be a spoiler and that's just not nice.
One thing the reader should be prepared for is this one to end very abruptly and it will be a bit of a shock if you are not. I was not, as I said I avoided other reviews (and the Goodreads page even, which would have showed me that this was #1 in the series). It was a disappointment for me that it occurred when it did, because it was at a crucial point for the two characters who I was most interested in, as they dealt with happenings in Beanor's Kingdom of Isk. I can't say anything about WHY this point is crucial, because it will give away important events, but I did not want this volume to end where it did and I know I will have to read the next one to know what happens.
As stated in the synopsis, far from Isk is the island of Turios, whose inhabitants have all been killed by forces of black magic raining down sharp shards of rocks that have literally sliced and diced nearly all of the populous. Three survivors seeks refuge in the Temple - a husband and wife, Bashinoir and Lil, as well as priestess of the temple, Miril. The priest was slaughtered with the rest of the citizens as he was officiating a wedding ceremony, and now Miril must try to keep the barrier protecting the island up all by herself. Again, if I say too much more it will give away major plot points.
The most interesting aspect of the book to me comes in two forms: first, the time-travel aspect and how someone has gone back to change things and Miril realizes they must themselves travel back as well to try and survive. Someone has changed time, causing the bodies of their dead loved ones to disappear. Lil starts disappearing briefly, right before Miril's eyes. This made the story for me and made me want to keep reading.
The second aspect of the story that was most interesting to me is Ilis, an apprentice wizard in the Kingdom of Isk employed by King Beanor, and Milia, the newest of King Beanor's forced wives. For a third time, I can't say anything else about my worry for them without giving more plot away. But they are the most interesting characters to me at this point, for where their story could go. I hope they get the chance.
The biggest reason I did not feel I could give the book four whole stars is due to the sexual content. King Beanor is violent and cruel and the glimpses we see of him and his wives were VERY off-putting to me. I would have preferred his cruelty be shown in a different way, but then it would not have provided the catalyst needed for certain events to be set in motion. For me, the science-fiction is most interesting, the time travel plot going on. This is of course purely subjective. Some people won't mind it, some people will feel the way I do. In all honesty I prefer books without sex. When the story itself is interesting, I'd rather the focus be on furthering that. I have a strict no romance/erotica/etc policy because too often, the sex IS the plot. It was certainly not the plot in this book, for which I am glad, but I hope there is less in the next book.
In some ways reviewing fiction is much easier than reviewing non-fiction. With the non-fiction, if I misquote an author or misuse the facts, I am the idiot who did not remember what I read and thus lost the whole point of the book. Fiction, on the other hand, is kind of up to me. I can love or hate a character and the author has no control over it really. There are characters I have absolutely abhorred that friends loved and vice versa. The real problem with fiction then, is the fact that with books like this that have twists and turns, I can't say a whole lot without giving away important parts of the plot - something I mentioned above three times.
So, all in all, I would say this is a book I can recommend to those who enjoy the sci-fi/fantasy genres. I am interested in reading the second volume as well to see how this adventure continues.