Saturday, March 6, 2010
Lamentation by Ken Scholes
Lamentation literally starts out with a bang. Somehow, an ancient weapon has destroyed the entire city of Windwir. Windwir, long the intellectual/religious (the two go hand in hand in this book) center of the Named Lands is completely decimated by this unknown weapon, and armies and kings are flocking to the ruins to see what is going on.
At the heart of conflict are a handful of key players: Rudolfo, the King of a gypsy like forest people. Jin Li Tam, daughter of a powerful lord, and consort (read: spy/sex kitten) to Sethbert, the Overseer of a group of City States. Neb, a survivor of the city who watched it's destruction from nearby. And Petronus, a fisherman with a really big secret.
At first glance it appears that Sethbert is responsible for the destruction of Windwir...he takes credit for it, but Rudolfo finds a metal man, (a robo-computer from a past, more technologically advanced, age), in the rubble. The metal man, called Issak, holds valuable information about the destruction of Windwir, and before you know it, the armies of The Named Lands are at each others throats. Pulling strings from both behind the scenes and from center stage is Jin Li Tam's father, Vlad Li Tam, who appears to know more about what the hell is going on than anyone else.
Lamentation is a fast paced novel that is packed with more political wrangling, backstabs, and double crosses than any novel I've read before. Somehow, Scholes manages to keep everything straight, keep everything interesting and write a damn good book. The characters are engaging and realistic from the start. I initially thought that some of the names were silly, Rudolfo in particular, but as you get to know the characters, the names seem to fit their personalities well.
The world of the Named Lands isn't as fleshed out as well as some other fantasies. I never really got a sense of place in this novel. The Named Lands never really captured my imagination and I hardly spent any time flipping back to the map. For me this was a bit of a negative, as I like maps in fantasy novels, and I like feeling like the author is transporting me off to a new land.
This is clearly a character driven novel though. Scholes shifts between point of view characters every few pages, and this keeps the book moving at a good clip. The characters all have their own motivations and none come across as "good" or "bad" characters, but instead seem genuinely human. When you couple the fleshed out characters of Lamentation with lots of politics, you get a solid novel.
Lamentation is the first novel in a five book series by Ken Scholes.