Friday, January 18, 2008

Across the Face of the World - Midway Point

Well, I'm almost halfway through ACROSS THE FACE OF THE WORLD, and so far, I'm liking it very much. It is very different from a novel by an American writer. The plot is leisurely, with lots of description. Yet, the plot does not stop moving; if it had, I would not have kept reading. As it is, I keep staying up later than I intended, trying to get through just another long chapter.

The little Company -- as the author calls them -- has grown from five to eight. I have not gone over all the characters, so I will now.

Leith and Hal. Brothers whose parents were taken by the Bhrudwan warriors. Hal is the older, and is crippled by what is thought to be a birth defect. Since his parents took him in as a toddler, no one really knows. Leith is is normal younger brother, about sixteen or seventeen years old.

The Haufuth. The leader of the village of Loulea, the home of most of the characters and the locale where the story begins. He is smart and cool-headed, and it is his idea to try to rescue Hal and Leith's parents. He starts out fat, but I cannot imagine that he will remain that way, due to all the hardships they are going through. He leaves his wife at home in order to lead this quest.

Kurr. A hot-tempered older man, who is incredibly tough. He has a mysterious past and belongs to an ancient sect called the Watchers. He is a source of lore and knows much of the land they pass through. He is a likable old cranky bastard.

Stella. A fifteen or sixteen year old girl, who they bring along because she happened upon their plans and they could not afford to leave her behind. She does not mind going because she is trying to avoid getting engaged against her will. She seems like a hindrance at first, but soon proves her worth.

Further on, they pick up two more men Farr and Wira. They are older than Hal and Leith, perhaps in their early 20s. Farr is hot tempered and Wira steady. One of them has a drinking problem, and the reader cannot be sure who it is. I have my suspicions; the author did not make it difficult to guess. There is a little love triangle developing involving Wira, Stella and Leith

And finally, they pick up an eighth character, who I will not reveal much about at this time.

And of course, I must mention Hal and Leith's parents, Mahnum and Indrett. I have to give the author credit for a twist on a familiar plot structure. No, the farm boy's parents do not conveniently die, thus motivating the main character for revenge. At least, not yet. Their captivity is what is driving the plot, right now. Every once in a while, we get a cliffhanger of a scene letting us know that they are still alive. And they both have backgrounds that are tantalizing enough for us to want to learn more.

The only real complaint I have so far is that the challenges they have faced seemed to have been rather easily overcome. They were attacked at a certain point, but all of them were able to fight off their attackers, even those who had never held a sword before. At another point, I was certain that they had a major challenge -- almost insurmountable -- but then, it was solved for them. It fit in the story and I would not call it a deux ex machina, but the author could have let the reader sweat about it for a few pages.

Speaking of pages, if you read this, expect pages and pages to go by, filled with description. It did not bother me, because as I said, the story kept moving. Besides, I got through the description of the city of Paris in The Hunchback of Notre Dame -- about 35 pages worth (and worth it in the end) -- so I can get through this, I think.

I'm finding the maps rather difficult to read. They look computer-generated. I have to peer at them up close in order to be able to read them. I'm hoping they got an artist to do some more attractive maps for the actual printed copy (I have an ARC -- thanks, Orbit!). In fact, I'm thinking about meandering to a bookstore to see if there is much difference between my copy and the one on the shelves.

If I do, I'll bring my camera.

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