The main character is a classic archetype: a human with magic powers that he can’t seem to summon except when they choose to show up. This leads to all sorts of trouble, between the uncertainties of his ability to hold his own in the clinch, and the reaction of other characters when he comes through or fails to come through, .
And then there’s his relationship with the other main character, a succubus with an amazingly human personality. The two of them relate through an entertaining and never-ending joust with words, as he strives to maintain a human-like relationship by not succumbing to her magical charms. Great stuff.
But then Mr. Erikson has to get creative. First there’s a prologue about an initiate climbing a mountain to achieve nirvana or whatever. When he reaches his goal, it’s not exactly like he expected. All very entertaining, but we never see this setting or this character again in the story. Red herring number one.
Then there’s the opening to every chapter, which is a segment from a book supposedly written by the main character about events which happened either before or after the present tale, we’re not sure which. After a while the reader begins to suspect that the author is using this as an excuse to insert his own ideas and impressions into the story, instead of letting the characters show us.
Then, once in a while, there are a few further insertions that happen “Elsewhere” which confuse us even more.
However, once we plough through all this extraneous setup material and the story gets going, it really rocks. So, I went back and checked. If you were to pull all the extra material out, it wouldn’t affect the story at all. Except for an annoying habit the main character has of stopping in the middle of the tensest moment for a page’s worth of agonizing about why he is in this situation and how he got here and what he could have done differently, this is a good story, with lots of action and empathetic characters. The interpersonal conflict is especially enjoyable, and the dialogue is sharp and often witty.
This is a very good writer who needs to learn to trust his narrative voice and stop trying to impress us with supplemental intellect and creativity. Believe me, it just gets in the way.
This book was originally reviewed on the Reedsy Discovery site.
(4 / 5)