Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Book review: books 1 & 2 of the Shattered Messiah trilogy

The Last GoddessThe Last Goddess by C.E. Stalbaum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book caught my eye in the Amazon Kindle fantasy genre list. I wanted to try a self-published fantasy novel, so I downloaded the sample, and then quickly bought the whole book.

The Last Goddess is about an 'information broker' (read: spy/smuggler) who purchases, amongst some ancient artefacts, the body of a woman held in stasis in a coffin. This woman is apparently the Kirshal (Messiah), hidden for a thousand years, and is prophesied to bring about a new age. Of course, there are many people who would like to get their hands on the Kirshal for various, not always benign, reasons.

I found this book to be a gripping, enjoyable read. I was swept away by the story quite thoroughly. However, there were a few things about it that irritated me:

  1. Some of the characters and dialogue forms (particularly the banter) have obviously been copied from the TV series Firefly. The main character is called Nathan Rook. I kid you not. For the first third of the book, I felt uncomfortable with how the characterisation was depending on Firefly as it is not what I would consider an honest practice; but from then on the characters started to stand on their own two feet and become interesting in their own rights. The author should have gone back to the beginning of the book during revisions and updated the characterisations to match the end of the book.
  2. Many conversations were at least twice as long as they needed to be. Characters argued back and forth for too long and rehashed old ground far too often. While this is normal in real speech, dialogue in fiction is supposed to be a shorthand approximation.
  3. Sans map, I found it difficult at the beginning to keep straight in my head which faction was which. It didn't help that in this book the reader has to keep track of both nations and religious groups which don't overlap neatly. Also, there were some names which were too similar to each other; I kept getting Edehans and Ebarans muddled up, even though they were very different groups of people!

Despite the flaws, I enjoyed the book. It is as good as a lot of traditionally published books I've read, and better than many!

The Last Empress (The Shattered Messiah, #2)The Last Empress by C.E. Stalbaum

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought The Last Empress, the second book in the Shattered Messiah trilogy, shortly after reading book one. I have to say, although this book was just as gripping as the first book, I didn't think it was quite as good overall. I have two reasons for this:

  1. There were too many POV characters and plot threads for the size of the book. It jumped around about as much as a Wheel of Time book, even though it was less than half the length. A few of the plot threads could have been trimmed.
  2. The book was a lot darker than the first, which isn't in itself a bad thing. This extra darkness was added in part through the characters making a lot of stupid mistakes. Unfortunately, some of those mistakes were out of character and were unbelievable considering who the characters are. The two main mistakes that bothered me were Rook not being overly concerned about Aston, and Selaste letting the four mages go behind enemy lines. These mistakes lessened the characters, and showed them to be idiots.

Despite these issues, I am looking forward to reading book three when it is published.

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