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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"The Fall of Ossard" Book One in the Ossard Trilogy by Colin Taber (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

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Introduction: Dark fantasy isn't something that I normally gravitate to when picking a book to read. When Australian author Colin Taber was brought to my attention I thought that it would be worth a read. The premise of the story having witchcraft and burning at the stakes is something that attracted my attention. After having read The Fall of Ossard I was really happy that I gave Taber's debut novel a try, as it's got a lot of potential.

Overview: The Fall of Ossard actually starts 20 years before the main novel setting. Readers are set into the heart of Ossard in the middle of a public display to denounce witchcraft. In the middle of town square 20 "witches" are being burned at the stake in order to cleanse Ossard of the witchcraft that is plaguing the city. Vilma, is one of the witches being burned as her daughter watches on from the crowds, and it's through her eyes that we see this chapter.

After the opening chapter, readers are introduced to Juvela Van Leuwin, our main character and whom the novels opinion is based off of. Juvela is growing up in the city of Ossard, a town that has been fairly quiet for 20 years until the sudden on set of kidnappings. Children are being kidnapped with no explanation or clues as to who is behind them. Until one day when Juvela
slips into the celestial and witnesses a kidnapping of a little boy. This event sets off a chain reaction that causes her magic to really grow and blossom within her.

Ossard has an annual tradition that when a girl is coming of age they are announced with a night on the town. It's at Juvela's night that she becomes an unwilling participant in a ritual death to help others gain more power. The little boy that she witnessed being kidnapped is killed in front of her so other men can gain power.

After the terrible events of her coming of age, the kidnappings increase and start to spread throughout the whole city. As the kidnappings continue, Juvela starts to grow in her magic celestial power, however she must try to hide it as it could bear the mark of the forsaken and have her pinned as a witch.

As events go unresolved tensions in the city grow. With these tensions many people start to split from the gods that they would normally turn to in such a time and start to turn to new gods. These new gods are out for power and death, although these people don't know it.

The fall of Ossard is nearing, and as Juvela learns the truth of what is really behind the power struggle in Ossard she must learn to come into her powers. As she comes into her powers she learns that she may be a powerful witch or something completely different and more important to the city of Ossard.

The Fall of Ossard is a dark fantasy that stands at 364 pages. It's separated into 3 sections based on the timeline in which the city of Ossard is falling. There is also an Appendix, and a Glossary filled with the characters, terms of the city and better understanding of the backgrounds of the nationalities of Ossard city. It is the first of three books in a series.

Analysis: Colin Taber has a lot of talent and it shows in this book. The amount of time and effort put into the details of the gods, and shifting between the real world and celestial really shows within the first few pages of this book. Instead of just plopping something down on paper and chalking up any faults as a debut novel, Taber really did put effort into the book and plot line.

That's not to say that The Fall of Ossard is without it's faults. There are several areas that I really wish had been explored more or improved upon.

The first area is that of the characters. The Fall of Ossard is written in first person throughout the whole book. That leaves readers with one character that they are forced to bond with. If for some reason the reader is turned off by the character or just disinterested in them, it really leaves a gap in the book. I tried really hard to like the characters but they just didn't grow on me. I found I was indifferent to the characters that were presented to me, and the main character Juvela I just didn't really feel anything for.

Another area that could be improved upon with characters is that of the dialogue. The dialogue between characters at time can be compelling but for the most part the dialogue is very stiff and awkwardly handled. This may add to why I wasn't as into the characters as I would have liked.

Taking a look at this book after having read it, I see that the main focus of this book is the gods, and "witchcraft" so if you are looking for lovable characters that readers will bond with, I'm not sure The Fall of Ossard would be the book for you.

A second area that I would love to see improved was that of the magic. There are so many different magics and ways to cast, however this is all scanned over very quickly and not thoroughly explained. Considering how big of part this all plays in the plot lines I would have liked to see more detail and time focused on explaining to readers what the magic was. This could, again, have been a result of the choice to write in first person. Juvela didn't know or understand her magic, and since we are reading about it through her eyes, therefore the reader doesn't know what is going on and learns with Juvela. Hopefully as the series progresses this issue is touched upon and improved because I feel as though my reading experience might have been better with a better understanding of the magic.

The last area of weakness is that of the slowness of plot. The first few pages were really gripping and pulled me in, but gradually the plot seemed to tapper down and it moved very very slowly. There was a plot but it felt as though not much was going on. There seemed to be a lot focused on the kidnapping of Juvela's family with the other sub plots whirling around and not fully explained. At times while reading I felt as though I'd hit a wall and just kept trudging but at other times I was pulled into the novel and wanted to know what happens.

I truly feel as though Taber has a great amount of talent. I didn't not like the book, it just didn't wow me like I would have liked. My main reason for enjoying books is getting close to characters and in the end, that's not what The Fall of Ossard is about. I truly appreciate the fact that Taber brings a lot of emotion to his writing and really spends time to develop plot lines. For that reason alone I'd love to see where the next book takes readers. I'd also love to see Taber grow as a writer and really develop the talent that is there.


PeterWilliam said...

Agreed. I reviewed this book back in May. I'll probably pick up future installments, but it does need work.

Cindy said...

I agree, it wasn't terrible or I wouldn't have made it all the way through the book. I did think there was a lot of thought behind the details in the plot but with work it might be a really really good book.

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