Tag Archives: Rhodri

Review of Kindle EBOOK The Art of Forgetting: Rider by Joanne Hall

Standard

I noticed that Rider is currently on a special offer – it’s FREE at Amazon, so I thought I’d reblog my review of this excellent book, in case you are looking for a really interesting, good quality read this week-end…

A young boy leaves his village to become a cavalryman with the famous King’s Third regiment; in doing so he discovers both his past and his destiny. Gifted and cursed with a unique memory, the foundling son of a notorious traitor, Rhodri joins an elite cavalry unit stationed in the harbour town of Northpoint.

riderRhodri bounces off the page right from the opening sequence and his grip wouldn’t let me go until I reached the final paragraph. Although I was in for a whole lot than I initially realised. I thought I was in for a coming-of-age adventure story in the style of L.E. Modesitt’s first book in his Imager Portfolio series. But this is a lot grittier and sexually explicit – so do be warned that if you have youngsters interested in your reading matter, I’d advise you vet this one first.

I was initially slightly caught off-balance. Having expected a particular type of book, it was something of a shock to find what I was reading was a lot more demanding. The easy, readable writing style, action-packed narrative pace, strong characterisation and familiar feel to the world initially had me sure of what I would continue to experience. And then Hall started delivering some smart surprises. I’m allergic to spoilers, so I’m not going to divulge the nuts and bolts of those surprises. However, the elite nature of the troops didn’t stop many of them being fairly unpleasant characters with a tendency to violence… This is fine on the battlefield, of course. But what if they are quartered in a town? And what happens when a large number of very fit, active young men want some female company? Without being remotely moralistic, Hall thoroughly explores this dynamic with uncomfortable consequences for all concerned.

And the curved balls kept coming… Aston’s narrative arc had my jaw dropping. While I was still reeling from the fallout to that shocker – Rhodri finds himself heading into action. But that action ends up taking a form that he could never have predicted – I certainly didn’t see it coming.

Throughout all of this, Rhodri is absolutely convincing. He yearns to find his father to help him sort out his own identity and while he may be the protagonist of the story, with a talent for calming horses and total recall, what he isn’t is a classical hero. He makes a multitude of mistakes – some of them are catastrophic. So many young main characters written by older authors show a chippy surefootedness that anyone who has spent time around real teenagers knows is not remotely realistic. Real teenagers are a mess of moody contradictions, poor impulse control, while capable of judgement errors that would have their ten-year-old selves rolling their eyes in disgust. Which is exactly how Rhodri and his fellow cadets behave a lot of the time.

Does it work? Oh, absolutely. This storming start to the series is an unusual, challenging read for all the right reasons and I shall definitely be tracking down the second book, Nomad. (Which I did – see my review here)
10/10

Review of The Art of Forgetting: Nomad – Book 2 by Joanne Hall

Standard

I’d read the excellent first part of this unusual Fantasy rite-of-passage book Rider earlier this year, see my review herenomad. And when at Bristolcon, it was a no-brainer that I’d buy a print copy of the sequel and get Joanne Hall to sign it for me. I’d thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, would the second book go on delivering?

In a single moment of defiance, driven by a rash act of compassion for a stranger, Rhodri turns his back on his unit, his country and his comrades in arms. Taken in by the Plains Hawk tribe, he finds compassion, love, and a new purpose for his unique memory. But just as he is coming to terms with his decision, they are overwhelmed by a threat that throws the tribe into chaos, menacing their nomadic way of life and the people he has grown to love.

Rhodri is an interesting character with an inconvenient memory, who is far more flawed than your usual main protagonist, but also more endearing. I certainly found myself caring for him – and holding my breath, at times when he got into some really tight spots. Hall has already proved that she isn’t afraid of offing major characters – and I wasn’t convinced that Rhodri would necessarily prevail against the many dangers he faced.

The love story threading through this story is depicted with tenderness and passion. But I also enjoyed the sense that Rhodri still carried in his heart the people he’d loved before. All too often in a series when a protagonist moves on, those characters who hitherto played a major part in our hero’s life vanish, no longer even meriting the odd mention.

Rhodri struggles to acclimatise to the new customs and life of a Plains Hawk man, missing many of his former companions. It doesn’t help that there is hostility and distrust for him from certain quarters in the tribe – and once more, the story took a sudden left turn that had my jaw dropping as alliances very suddenly shift. And the way it happens is so very cool, I find myself constantly thinking about how it came about, even though I’ve now read a couple of books since, and I’m up to my neck in line editing my own novel. It displays the smart awareness Hall shows in her writing. I certainly didn’t see how Rhodri’s role within the Plains Hawk tribe was going to develop when I first started the book.

So, given this is the final book in the series, does Hall manage to complete Rhodri’s story satisfactorily? Oh yes. I had begun the final battle scenes, thinking the outcome was bound to go a certain way – only for Hall once more to confound my expectations and produce an unexpected ending that I really enjoyed.

All in all, this is a delightful read, packed with adventure in an engrossing, readable world, with a complex, interesting protagonist who keeps delivering surprises that had me whipping through the book by staying up far later than I should have done. Once more, an outstanding read and if your taste runs to well written, enjoyable Fantasy with a difference, then track down this duology – and whatever you do, start with Rider. While Nomad is certainly easy enough to get into, this is too good a treat to only sample half the pleasure.
10/10