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August 21st, 2009

me

Shoulder to the plow

Well, I've made the first inroads on the third draft of my big novel project (working title: THE FORKED ROAD.  Need something spicier).  It's a space opera with no space, shading into sword and planet. . .which would make it a planet opera, I suppose.  I'm also about 15,000 words into my attempt at a Shabak novel.  For those tuning in late, Shabak is the brave kabrisk featured in RAGE OF THE BEHEMOTH.

Speaking of that most awesome anthology, its been reviewed again, this time at heroic fantasy journal THE CIMMERIAN.  Here's what Deuce Richardson had to say about "Black Water":

“Black Water,” by Sean T.M. Stiennon is a tale I wasn’t sure I would like initially. The protagonist, Shabak, is a kabrisk, a member of a race of “Ancients” who ruled the seas before the advent of mankind. To put it bluntly, Shabak is a “crab man.” He is also the foster-father of a human boy. The boy, Drace, is the biological son of Valedarius, who was a mortal enemy of Shabak. The story is one involving the sins of fathers past and the sacrifices of foster-fathers present. The eponymous monster in this tale has ample reason for his vendetta; sort of a crustaceanoid
Roy Batty, in his tentacular, pincered way. For me, the battle that ensues between Black Water and Shabak evoked positive comparisons with the climactic show-down in “Xuthal of the Dusk.”

Slightly more mixed than other remarks, but I'll take it with a smile.

me

Darkborn

DARKBORN, by Alison Sinclair is a cool book.  I would recommend it to my friends, particular those who appreciate Victorian-styled fantasy, unique worldbuilding, or a good romance of manners and revolvers.

See?  The important stuff is at the beginning.  Other remarks follow.

For some reason, I love the Roc trade paperbacks.  Something about the paper quality and the cover stock makes them particularly comfortable in my hands.  I first discovered this with E. E. Knight's AGE OF FIRE series (also highly recommended).

So the first thing that attracted me to DARKBORN was simply its layout and feel.  The blurb hooked me next.  A world where even the thinnest sliver of light destroys our blind heroes, who go about their Victorian-flavored society purely via the other four senses, augmented by echolocation ("sonn")?  Sign me up!  Opposite our Darkborn heroes lives an entirely parallel society of Lightborn, who need constant exposure to bright lights to avoid death.  Communication between the two is limited to letters passed through specially designed cabinets and comversations through padded paper walls.

The plot centers around a conspiracy surrounding two bastard children born from an apparent magical seduction of a noblewomen.  More mysteriously, the children are gifted with sight--a trait known to the Darkborn largely by theory.  The twins vanish, and the noble doctor Balthasar who took in their mother and delivered them is battered within an inch of his life by thugs.  Together with his wife, Telmaine, who hides her gift of magic from everyone around her, and the notorious border solider Baron Ishmael di Studier, a man increasingly enamored with Telmaine, Balthasar goes about the business of unravelling the mysteries surrounding him, which increasingly point to dark magic and a conspiracy that threatens to spark war between Lightborn and Darkborn.

The worldbuilding is very cool.  Rooms are described for their aural rather than visual qualities, and the range of echolocation is limited to about a city block, giving nearly every scene a unique angle.  Some might find the lack of a single visual description off-putting, but the author does pretty well dealing with the oddness and making a smooth read.  The other aspects of worldbuilding are cool, too, from the Darkborn system of sea navigation to the use of firearms and primitive automobiles.  The writing is erudite and yet makes for easy reading, with a vocabularly appropriate to the setting.

My only real complaint is the romantic tension between Ishmael and Telmaine.  It's well-handled from a story-telling viewpoint, but in addition to adulterious affection being Not Cool, I simply liked Balthasar too much to enjoy seeing him come within even remote proximity of being cockculded.  Telmaine continues to love her husband, but the love triangle between the three of them is left as an unresolved conflict for future books.  DARKBORN is the first volume of a trilogy, to be continued next May, I think.