Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Skewed Throne

By Joshua Palmatier.

I actually liked this book. Don't let what I'm about to say fool you. I think it was a bit short since I finished it so quickly, but I can't think of much that was blatantly missing from the plot. Questions are raised which will hopefully be answered later in the series.

So the story's about a girl who's grown up starving in the slums of Amenkor. Like many people in her situation do in fiction (I can't speak for reality, but it might be true), she becomes a thief. The thing is, she has a little bit more than just a streetwise upbringing to help her; when she was six years old, she almost drowned in a fountain when she was with her mother, and she began to see the world in a different way, and occasionally anticipate the future just before it happens. Comparisons to Improbable, anyone? I suppose there have been any number of books featuring similar abilities.

But wait, there's more! The Mistress who rules the city from the Skewed Throne is slowly losing control, making decisions that range from uselessness to outright maliciousness. Spoilerishness: As it turns out, the throne has voices of its own, harvested souls from every ruler who's sat on it. Insert comparisons to the wall in First Rider's Call and Gene Wolfe again, please. (Wow, he turns up everywhere, doesn't he? There are actually at least of a couple parallels here, now that I think about it.)

Throughout the book, Varis seems railroaded along with no real decisions of her own, controlled by her fears and perhaps subtle prescience. At the end she seems almost the same; she's gained a superficial ability to hide what she's feeling, but I don't think she's really accepted any of it. It remains to be seen whether she matures into someone with control over her own life, although she certainly has it over others with her dagger. Other characters are also perhaps a bit of a mystery. The Mistress of the city is barely developed at all, but apparently figures at least some in the next book, from snooping on the author's LiveJournal. Erick's attitude towards Varis is also hard to figure out, not to mention how he found her again with perfect timing in the city proper. And there is always the White Fire to consider: although it didn't change anything visibly, it has left an invisible stamp on Varis and perhaps other parts of the city. What is it? Where did it come from? And why did it (apparently) choose her?

Worth a read, I think. Keep an eye out for The Cracked Throne in November. (And The Fugitives of Chaos! I object to so many books I want coming out at the end of the semester, but maybe that means they'll be in libraries by the time I have time to read them... And lest I get prideful, there is always the possibility that I will never have the chance to do so.)

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