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Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Skywatcher" by Jon Connington (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Jon Connington Website
Order "Skywatcher" HERE (Kindle) or HERE (multiformat ebook)
Read About a Quarter the Novel HERE
Read FBC Review of Field of Fire

INTRODUCTION:I found out about the author's debut Field of Fire from a review inquiry for FBC and I liked the book so much that its conclusion, Skywatcher became one of my top awaited books of the second half of 2010. Sadly after a pretty strong novel almost to the end, the author blunders badly and takes the book and series one notch down.

Armies gather on the horizon. A world on the edge of destruction A hero faces the ultimate choice.Driven onward by his quest for revenge, Macsen has come the Kingdom of Audran, There he joins with the Order of the Skywatchers to bring down Goren, the mage responsible for the destruction of his village. Armies gather in the wilds of the Upper Airs, as Goren readies the final step of his plan to destroy the world and then remake it in his image. Battle rages in the killing skies, swords and magic clash. And the fate of the world lies in the hands of one man.
SKYWATCHER: the thrilling conclusion of The Storm at the Center of the World!

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "Skywatcher" stands at about 325 pages and has two main threads. The main storyline follows Macsen and Zofera whose paths meet as expected when Macsen comes to Vorsenn.

The second thread follows Goren (aka Ornezo) whose failure to plunge the continent of Tamistal in flames by intrigue, leads him to use direct force by uniting the equivalent of barbarian tribes of the story that live in the inhospitable Upper Air and bringing them to pillage and kill freely in the middle realms.

"Skywatcher" is fantasy adventure and the second installment and conclusion of the Storm at the Center of the World series.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Skywatcher picks up where Field of Fire ends and continues the saga of Macsen, Zofera and the renegade mage Goren to the end. The writing is very energetic and there are a lot of cool descriptions and action scenes, though the story is predictable. The author carries it with panache but the ending is quite disappointing and takes away from an otherwise great series, so overall the duology is less than I expected based on the first volume; sometimes you need to be able to maintain the emotional balance, not only the story pace and here the book fails.

It is very hard to avoid spoilers in discussing why I think the ending diminishes the novel a lot, but the strength of the series are in its exuberance and "over the top action scenes", rather in any "realism" - after all it has floating countries, good pirates, wise mages - so while the novel has drama and some dark moments, they are clearly "make-believe" and there is no moment in which the heroes are in real jeopardy, though the author's writing skill keeps the suspension of disbelief going strong.

This is of course part-and-parcel why Field of Fire
and Skywatcher for most of its length are so entertaining, rather than a negative, since this is where the series stakes its territory from the beginning. So there is an emotional balance, not only a storyline one and breaking it at a given point is just arbitrary rather than edgy, so to speak. You can pull off the ending of Skywatcher - and for example Ironroot by SJA Turney does very successfully something similar though in a different context - but you need to adjust slowly the balance throughout the book, rather than dropping the axe so to speak at the end.

Incidentally, if the author is determined to end the book the way Skywatcher does, still abruptly and without any adjustment, there is another possibility by carrying the story forward in time with an epilogue and doing it there, which is more acceptable and has been done in quite a few of my favorite novels like say The Player of Games or even SJA Turney's debut fantasy Interregnum.

Skywatcher (B) was what I expected and more almost to the end, but then the author dropped the ball badly in misjudging the emotional balance of the novel and while it did not quite ruin my experience of the series, it definitely took it a notch down.


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