Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: Erekos by A.M. Tuomala

Her sister swore that she would never let her die; now the entire world may pay the price.In a land where gods walk beside men and witches defy death, war changes everything. Scholar and warrior, witch and king, priestess and corpse-all must come together to save their world from the ravages of the coming tempest.

This is a very… different book.

I’m not even sure how to classify it.

While it’s fantasy, it’s not quite like any other fantasy I’ve read (yes, even the China Mieville brand. It’s weirder than that.) It’s most certainly not a character-driven piece - in fact, it’s as far from a character driven piece as I can think of. The voice is definitely unusual, with a higher authorial presence than I’m used to.

Really, I didn’t know what to think of this, until I realised this reminded me most of Madeline Claire Franklin’s “The Poppet and the Lune” - a story that went all the way back to its original storytelling roots, and it all clicked together.

“Erekos” was like reading a book of myth and legend, and it was a wonderful experience. The book goes back to storytelling at its darkest roots - it’s a story about Gods walking the earth and humans fighting the consequences of their arrogance, about sadness and war and hope and love. There is no fairytale ending in “Erekos”. There isn’t really an ending, per se - just life going on, moving from one arc to another.

It was a surprisingly refreshing story, considering how I prefer characters over plot any day of the week. That is not to say the characters aren’t complex - they are, but there are many of them, and it does feel like we don’t spend enough time with them to really get their development. “Erekos” starts at a point where most of the characters’ arcs are halfway done, and it’s by converging that they bring forward the story.

If there is one thing I’d like to highlight in this book, it would be the interactions between Jeiger and Erlen. Erlen, a scholar, goes to study the borderlands both for his Great Work (PhD in real-world terms) and to escape military service, which otherwise wouldn’t have spared any young man. Once in the wilderness, he becomes friends with hunter Jeiger, and the two build a rapport that develops into camaraderie and later - romance.

In the hands of a lesser author, this kind of relationship would have turned into “Pocahontas”, or worse, “Avatar”, but thankfully, A.M. Tuomala’s having none of that, and I’m ever thankful for it. The book handles its characters at a distance and only allows the reader the barest glimpses inside their minds. It’s this subtlety that makes this interesting, and it’s quite refreshing to have the reader slowly come to understand these two characters.

If you’re looking for something completely different from your usual fantasy fare, I would heartily recommend “Erekos”.

Note: A copy of the book was provided by the publishers via Netgalley.

Note: Synopsis and image via Goodreads.