Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Year Of Our War - by Steph Swainston

The Year Of Our War is a tale of fantasy and war in the Fourlands.
The Emperor controls and maintains The Circle, a group of 50 immortals and the best at each skill useful in the war against the insects that have plagued the land for centuries, eating everything and everyone in their path.

All mortals dream of joining the Circle and becoming immortal and that place, once gained, must be defended against all challangers. Jant is the Messenger but he's confident in keeping his place among the immortals as he is the only man alive that can fly. Others are not so lucky and have their own rivalries and squabbles to content with. Meanwhile, the insects just keep coming and coming and no-one knows where from!

The Year Of Our War is Steph Swainston's first novel and, as such, it's a pretty accomplished work. However, there's a lot going on and it may get a little too surreal for some readers. It reminded me of the work of China MiƩville and his multi-specied world of Bas-Lag. There are the Plainslanders, who seem human, or at least we get no indication that they are unusual in any way. Then there's the Awians, who appear to be humanoids with wings but they can't fly and lastly the Rhydanne, who seem to be evolved from cats but I'm guessing there.

Character development of the main players like Jant and Lightning is quite good but we don't learn much about the Emperor or how he bestows immortality on his Circle. Jant is the main character of the story but I wouldn't exactly call him a hero. He's half Rhydanne, half Awian and, being so light because of his Rhydanne ancestry, he can actually use his wings to fly. As The Circle's Messenger, his place as an immortal is pretty secure; no-one is going to beat someone that can fly but on the downside, he's drug addict with a pretty shady past.

The book ends with no indication of a sequel to come and no obvious loose ends other than the fact that the war goes on. However, it looks like Swainston has decided to expand it into a series so there's No Present Like Time and Dangerous Offspring to be read next if the reader is sufficiently captivated by the first book. I might give the next one a try myself as The Year Of Our War was an entertaining story.

Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy, Science-Fiction, War
ISBN: 0-575-07642-9
My Rating: 7/10

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