Tag Archives: Glenda Larke

Review of Heart of the Mirage – Book 1 of The Mirage Makers by Glenda Larke

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This is the first book in a fantasy trilogy that fans of Kate Elliott and Trudi Canavan shouldn’t miss.

heartofthemirageStolen from her people as a child and raised as a citizen of the Tyranian Empire, Ligea Gayed is the obvious choice to despatch to her homeland, occupied Kardiastan, with orders to root out a rebel conspiracy. At first, she devotes herself to her new assignment with zeal. Adopted daughter of the Empire’s greatest general, and possessing a fearsome reputation within the ruthless Imperial spy network known as the Brotherhood, Ligea views herself as a loyal servant of Tyrans. But blood will out, and with each day she spends among her parents’ people, her disciplined self-image crumbles a little. And there are secrets in Kardiastan, secrets that will inevitably force Ligea to choose between her upbringing and her birthright.

Yeah, I know… it does sound rather familiar – but Larke’s fine writing and takes the classic heroine-with-a-hidden-but-special-past scenario and gives it a fresh immediacy in her outstanding character Ligea. I’m a sucker for a spiky, three-dimensional protagonist with plenty of flaws – and Ligea has plenty of them as she describes her privileged life as a high ranking member of the feared Brotherhood. The first person narrative grabbed me and drew me into the story, which zips along at an impressive pace while giving a strong sense of first Tyran society and then the constrasting situation in Kardiastan. The world building is deftly done, without any tedious info dumping, as we follow Ligea’s journey through two different worlds. While I saw some of the plotpoints coming, there are plenty of unexpected twists that kept me turning the pages as the narrative tension continues ramping up right to the conclusion. I was pleased to note that while there are a number of dangling plotlines waiting to be tied up in the two subsequent books, the storyline in this first instalment was brought to an entirely satisfactory ending. It always peeves me to get all the way to the end of a novel in a multi-book series and find that I have to wait till the next volume before a main plot point is resolved.

The flashes of humour – not particularly prevalent in this particular sub-genre – were also enjoyable as Brand, Ligea’s stroppy slave, stomps along in her wake giving plenty of unwanted advice. Themes running through this book won’t come as a shock to high fantasy fans – the tension between might and right; how to handle great power; the importance of free will.

Any niggles? Well, I do have a problem with the name of Tyr – and its inhabitants, the Tyrans. While obviously based upon Roman society, with slavery as the cornerstone of its society, I do think that Larke should have trusted her readers a bit more to recognise the faultlines in such a society without leading us by the nose in using such a blatantly unsubtle name. It slightly irked me throughout the book that all Tyrans needed was the addition of one letter to turn their name into tyrants… It’s the sort of device I’d expect from someone a lot less gifted and able than Larke. But other than that, I found the book a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read and have already started on the sequel, The Shadow of Tyr.
8/10

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Review of The Last Stormlord – Book 1 of the Stormlord/Watergivers trilogy by Glenda Larke

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This book is set in a desert world where water conservation is crucial and there are large, segmented creatures called pedes which are used for transport – however don’t panic, this series isn’t a rip-off of Dune, despite the superficial similarities.

laststormlordShale is the lowest of the low – an outcast from a poor village in the heart of the desert. In the desert, water is life and currency and Shale has none. But he has a secret. It’s one thing that keeps him alive and may well save all the cities of the Quartern in the days to come. If it doesn’t get him killed first…

Terell is a slave fleeing a life as a courtesan. She finds shelter in the home of an elderly painter, but as she learns the strange and powerful secrets of his art, she fears that may have traded a life of servitude for something more perilous…

The Stormlord is dying in his tower and there is no one to take his place. He brings the rain from the distant seas to his people. Without a Stormlord, the cities of the Quartern will wither and die. Their civilisation is at the brink of disaster. If Shale and Terelle can find a way to save themselves, they may just save them all. Water is life and their wells are running dry…

And there it starts. If you’re looking for a stunningly original plotline, then you’ll be disappointed. Yes – this is the staple of classic Fantasy, two poor outcast children who have unique and disturbing talents that create difficulties for them and those around them. But Larke is a solidly good writer, who manages to weave a strong, interesting world with a host of enjoyable details that pulled me into her book and kept me turning the pages long after I should have turned out the light and gone to sleep. I love the ziggers; nasty little creatures who are used as a weapon as when starved, they head straight for the soft parts of a human face…

I also particularly enjoyed the language. There are a number of slang phrases used by the characters, such as sandcrazy, sun-dried fool and dryhead that I bonded me further with world. I feel that a lot of writers don’t consider how the environment impacts on our use of language and always groan when some science fiction/fantasy character living in a completely alien culture and society trots out a contemporary idiom or metaphor that wouldn’t sound out of place on the London tube.

The story drew me in and I enjoyed the plot twists, many of which I didn’t see coming. As with most classic Fantasy, there are some interesting moral dilemmas unfolding in this story. As water becomes ever shorter, which method is more humane in the longer term? Spreading the diminishing supplies thinly across the whole district – or choosing to exclude the poorest districts? There is also the Reduner society, a nomadic warrior race who used to roam throughout the Quartern before the rainlords and stormlords enabled city life to become a possibility, when they were driven to the margins of their original territory. They want the time of random rain to be restored, where they feel their closer bond to the unforgiving landscape will allow them to once more flourish. These issues are teased out through the two volumes I’ve read so far, and Larke does a solid job of covering both viewpoints effectively.

Any niggles? Well, I did feel that the book was a bit slow to get going – while there are some very strong, shocking scenes, Terelle’s story strand initially seemed at times a little repetitive and I found myself skimming her sections without losing the thread unduly, which tells me that a little more editorial pruning would have probably tightened up the pace and improved the narrative tension. However, the power struggle surrounding the dying Stormlord certainly gripped me and there were a couple of outstandingly enjoyable characters – Ryka, the short-sighted and grumpy rainlord was certainly my favourite – a preference underscored by her adventures in the second book, Stormlord Rising. I was also intrigued by Taquar and hope that we learn more about his motivations during the series.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and its sequel, Stormlord Rising, which if anything is even better and if classic Fantasy with a well depicted world and a cast of detailed characters is your cup of tea, I’d advise you to get hold of these two books – you’re in for a treat. As for me, I’m eagerly waiting for the publication of the last book in the trilogy next year.

8/10