Monday, January 6, 2014

Book review: "Curse of Mistwraith" by Janny Wurts

I have noticed "Wars of Light and Shadows" series by Janny Wurts before (it was on a list I studied some years ago), but somehow I never resolved to read it. But few weeks ago I noticed it again on series "Under the Radar" and decided to give it a try. There are several series that I have started, but I am waiting for next installment to be published ("Shadows of the Apt" by Adrian Tchaikovsky, "The Second Apocalypse" by R. Scott Bakker, "The Stormlight Archive" by Brandon Sanderson"), so I am able to start another one in between.

First book in the series, "Curse of Mistwraith" starts a story about the long war of two brothers. Lysaer and Arithon are born of same mother, but their fathers and their families have been mortal enemies for generations. Lysaer's father is King of rich country Amroth while Arithon's fathers commands a kingdom of pirates. After Arithon is captured and almost executed, intervention of Arithon's and Lysaer's grandfather, the High Mage, sees them both exiled of their world through gates into unknown world. Once there, they learn that their lines has been High Kings of this world Athera and that their destiny is to defeat the Mistwraith, magical enemy that has been suffocating all life for last five centuries. But before, they have to find peace between themselves...

I must admit that I didn't like "Curse of Mistwraith" in the beginning. It started all high and noble, with stereotype characters, simplistic motives and predictive plot. Also, Wurts' pretty hard style of writing, full of uncommon words (I didn't reach for thesaurus so much for a long time) didn't help getting into this book. But as the story progressed, the style also expanded, and story and characters got increasingly more complex and interesting. For example, at the beginning there is no politics, neither on high level, nor between characters - but this changes later, and politics plays a more important role (unfortunately, it doesn't get as realistic as in some books).

Wurts' writing is very detailed and lots of effort is put into details, which interestingly all come into place with others. As I said, the book started with very noble style, but later in the book there is humor, violence, and even sex and prostitutes. Too bad there is no direct cursing, only occasional mentioning of gods. But even so, there are some funny jewels, like "... Dakar spoke phrases that cast biological doubt upon Arithon's already illegitimate ancestry". Still, Wurts is a bit too noble on human nature: I don't think some clans would wait 500 years for their prince to come and then the clan-leader would eagerly give away his position.

Plot starts simple, but later gets decently complicated. There is a lot of twists, not all unpredictable. In general, after you pass first quarter of the book, things get nicely interesting. Same is true for characters. The cast is not enormous as you would expect for a first novel in ten-books series. Interestingly, the Big Bad is not revealed, nor the overall theme for the series. Of characters, I liked Elaira's part: she was witty and contrary from the beginning. As an epic fantasy, the book contains some typical elements, like the group of sorcerers, and of course, a grumpy silent wizard that leads our heroes.

There was one thing that was irritating throughout the book: Wurts' tendency to refer to Arithon as "the Master" (from "the Master of Shadow"). I hope she drops it later.

So, "Curse of Mistwraith" presents a nice introduction into a new series. It has somewhat misleading start, but later gets pretty interesting and fun to read. My final recommendation will depend on next few books - there is no point in reading a book if you will not complete the series.

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