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Thursday, February 24, 2011

"What Time Forgets: The Daughters of Ard Creggan" by K.E. Redmond (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


Order What Time Forgets HERE (tpb) or HERE (Kindle)

INTRODUCTION: "What Time Forgets" is a recently published independent book about which we have received a review inquiry a week or two ago and as with all such that have an interesting blurb for me - criteria are mentioned in my post about notable 2010 Independent Books - I took a look at the available sample.

Since I quite liked what I read there despite not having too much of a clue where the book plans to go, I asked for a review copy and it jumped close to the top of my reading queue.
The blurb below is fairly generic and actually the novel goes in some surprising directions, so I will discuss the setup in more detail later.

I would also add that What Time Forgets belongs to the relatively
recent breed of books that freely mix genres and genre conventions and do not fit in a clear "subgenre" while still being core *secondary world sff adventures*: there are prophecies but not an ancient evil on a world domination/destruction quest that just got reawakened, mysterious artifacts of power, but not in quite the "magic talisman/sword" way we read in so many books and I could continue with sf-nal analogies too....

"Seers and cutthroat politicians, technocrats and a warrior class, jockey for power in a world where memories imperil the future. A soldier and a determined young woman, adversaries with their own secrets, ally to find the key that will avert a terrible reckoning on their world. A prophecy takes them from a mercenary’s stronghold to an oracle’s decaying temple, on to a monastery’s long-buried secrets and, finally, to a violent confrontation in a long-ruined fortress at sea’s edge. A final justice may well sacrifice everything they know
"

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "What Time Forgets" starts with a bang when a ship is boarded by enemies after being attacked with cannon fire and a dying man slips a pendant into the hands of a younger man who then slips away through a secret hatch. Then we are introduced to the city of Ard Creggan where the main storyline starts and we witness a discussion about pendants involving Zoe Deich, younger scion and heir of the city's first family, whose great-aunt Livia is the nominal head of Concordia, the assembly of the leading Ten Families that control the oligarchic city.

However we soon find out information that starts to undermine the
more-or-less traditional setup with a city dominated by noble families - the "Publicans" - that control mineral wealth and mostly pre-industrial technology - though with guns and some metal industry - and who is in conflict with an agrarian, more numerous and aggressively egalitarian but poorer society - the "Citizens".

There is the mysterious Counselor that came out of nowhere centuries ago and unified the noble families and taught them how to make iron and guns and hence dominate the surrounding areas, there are long-lived seers - so the powers and longevity of the Counselor are not singular - that can see multiple future paths but are scrupulously neutral, there is Noor a secretive mind reading strange being that was brought by Zoe's diplomat father Jomini in the girl's infancy and has been her "governess" since, though she keeps a low profile so to speak, and there is the upstart miner's son, Sinon Yar who raised himself by hook and by crook to a position of power and wants to break the Publicans and lead Ard Creggan by himself.

We later meet Tiernan, the young man from the opening scene who turns out to be a "soletei" - a member of the Citizens elite military special forces - but with strong ties with Ard Creggan that were forged in the intermittent periods of truce between the two entities. The novel also expands its action way beyond Ard Creggan and we visit quite a few places, meet lots of new characters and see action, intrigue, suspense and more...

So quite an intriguing setup and while twisting and turning and going in unexpected directions, things come together as the novel goes on and What Time Forgets turns out to be a standalone with a clear theme and a definite ending though promising more; the author let me know there will be a next volume.

Looking at what made What Time Forgets a hit with me, I would have to say that the world building and the novel's main storyline with its twists and turns that kept me guessing till the end were the main reasons, while the narrative flowed very well and kept me turning page after page until the end.

The characters are pretty interesting too since while having partly the usual traits, they also have their own quirks and so become distinctive as the book goes on - most notably Zoe and Tiernan but several others I do not want to spoil too, while Sinon Yar makes a somewhat cardboard but still "love to hate" villain.

If there is a niggle outside of minor editing issues, it is the fact that What Time Forgets occasionally gets on the border of "too clever" for its own good with some anachronistic word usage like say (lumpen) proletariat and others, but overall that did not detract too much from the enjoyment of the book and the author's generally ironic modern tone made it sound natural enough, only making me "huh?" after the fact rather than throwing me out of the narrative flow all together.

Overall
What Time Forgets (A+) is a highly recommended sff adventure that has both fantasy and sfnal overtones, a book with inventive world building, page turning narrative flow and a lot of twists and turns and come together in a complete package but with a hook for more...

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