The most amazing world building I’ve seen in fantasy in years!
The premise of this book is incredibly exciting – and it pulled me in instantly. The story is of the Chathrand – a huge merchant ship, several centuries old, unlike any other in the world, carrying 800 people – and its mysterious disappearance. The book starts with a very exciting Special Notice, detailing that this ship of ships has been reported lost at sea. Bodies of crew and items from the ship has been found along various shores, but the strange thing is that the wreck is yet to be found. Weird, when you consider this is the largest ship in the world.
We follow Pazel Pathkendle, a young tarboy who carries a magical curse and ends up becoming part of the crew onboard the Chathrand and as such, drawn into a strange and long-winded conspiracy. There are spymasters, mages, talking rats, secrets monsters, and crawlies aboard the Chathrand, which when combined with the conspiratorial politics of the captain, the ship owners and the emperor of kingdoms, make for a VERY exciting book.
I’ll say it again – this is some of the most amazing world building I’ve seen in fantasy in ages. It’s so unique. Sure, it has that typical Anglo-Saxon, medieval vibe to it that so much fantasy seems to have, but at the same time, the seafaring and ship sailing focus is absolutely enthralling. It’s also incredibly well put together. The downfall of the fantasy genre is often that the delivery of information and the constructing of a world that’s supposed to seem organic and natural falls flat. That it either becomes too much, or feels rigid and stale. But this is incredible. If I had to guess, I’d say Redick had been some kind of sailor or seafarer all his life, everything in this seems to come so natural.
The writing was more difficult to get a good grasp on for me. Yes, I love the world and is absolutely enthralled by the characters and the plot around them, but I found it difficult to latch on to the actual words, occasionally. The writing is sometimes confusing, with many characters speaking in each other’s mouths, and tangents that try to shoehorn information into the middle of scenes – to the point where I was completely lost about what was actually going on. I found myself often re-reading pages to just make sure I was following. In one sense, it works in the books favor, because I feel like I’m being rewarded for paying extra attention. As if the author made the writing deliberately difficult, to say “You want the story? Well, you’ve got to do your best to keep up, because off we go!” More often than not, however, I wished the writing was maybe a bit more easily accessible. I read for fun, to be entertained, and when I feel like the book isn’t interested in pulling me along, it makes me feel left out.
But the story – as well as the world building – is absolutely amazing. Everything seems so very meticulously planned out. I like to try and guess what’s going on when I read thrillers, mysteries, and conspiratorial things, to see if I can get there before the big reveal. But in this, I found myself not even being sure what I was supposed to be guessing. I wasn’t even keeping up with the conspiracies themselves, least of all able to guess what was what. There were so many layers to everything, and things that kept coming back around when you least expected it. It’s exciting.
If you’re looking for a new fantasy series (4 books in total) which I’ll dare say is probably not like anything you’ve ever read, then I highly recommend this! I can’t wait to crack on with the second book.