The Braided Path by Chris Wooding
|Book Name:||The Weavers of Saramyr, The Skein of Lament, and The Ascendancy Veil|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / eBook|
|Release Date:||April 1, 2004 (US) April 8, 2004 (UK)|
Chris Wooding’s first move into adult fiction could not have been more of a success. The books follow the life of Kaiku and her desperate struggle to avenge the death of her family and come to terms with what she is whilst the world falls down around her.
Unlike most fantasy writers Wooding does not fall into the comfortable familiarity of a Medieval setting or even a Western setting choosing instead to create his own very original world with inspirations drawn from the Far East. Wooding’s determination to create his own world deserves praise, whereas in his other work The Fade he has openly admitted that his determination for everything to me ‘otherworldly’ actually hindered him, but in The Braided Path he is far more successful.
Within the text he has created numerous creatures which allow the reader to stretch their imagination instead of allowing it rest in the comfort of what they are used to. Wooding doesn’t let you rest back on your laurels as the enemy approaches, like Kaiku and Tsata he expects you to interact with your opponent, acknowledge this new threat and try to figure out how our heroes can succeed. Due to this Wooding is responsible for creating some of the most horrific villains you may come across in fiction, The Weavers, as sinister as any character created by Joe Abercrombie or George R. R. Martin. Imagine the utter rage you felt for Joffrey Baratheon and how much you want to wring the little brat’s throat, except The Weavers are more likely to kill you before the idea has even finished forming in your mind.
Though Wooding’s protagonists have frequently been female it is apparent in The Braided Path more so than in his earlier fiction that it is a male writer trying to write about women. As a female reader there are elements of Wooding’s multiple female cast that do not ring true and appear more how women are perceived than as they actually are; a character can be covered in mud, sweat and blood after a battle and then become suddenly concerned with her appearance.
Also, the novels span over ten years and yet there is not considerable development in numerous characters. This is particularly seen with Kaiku who repeats mistakes she made in the first novel when she’s eighteen again in the third novel when she’s twenty nine leaving the reader thinking, “Seriously Kaiku?! Again?! Haven’t you learnt anything?” That’s if they’re not shouting, “No, you idiot!” at the page.
Romance or at least the manipulation of romantic and sexual relationships does play a part in the trilogy which readers coming from Wooding’s earlier YA fiction might find surprising; particularly the graphicness of some of the sex scenes and not forgetting a lesbian encounter. For readers looking for a young, attractive, sensitive male lead to romance our female protagonists I’m afraid they’re not coming and those who do don’t stick around for long.
Wooding likes his men to be men: i.e. big and brawny, who know how to handle themselves in battle and chuck in a beard or some tattoos for good measure. Reminiscent of how I felt when reading Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials I thought I’d got the romantic partnership established in the first book only to realise how wrong I was at the appearance of a certain character in the second book. The real romance in these books isn’t really romantic or sexual at all it’s about a bond, a loyalty between two characters who’ve gone through so much together and I found myself much more attached to that than I would be a stereotypical romantic plot line.
The ultimate success of the trilogy is having a large ensemble of characters whose actions are not simply used to forward the plot or endear them to the reader. Each character acts as their nature would dictate resulting in characters that do not fall easily into the categories of good or bad. Each character has their own aims and agenda which they pursue, as a result likeable characters transform into villains instantaneously which leaves the reader reeling; unsure how they should react. The novels are not just a story about war, they are far more concerned with politics and inner turmoil, and yet there is no clear political agenda that the narrative leans towards, focusing rather on the character’s personal choices.
There are no easy answers in The Braided Path and the multiple climaxes of the final book are not ones that can be predicted early on and will leave the reader shocked and emotionally bruised. Whilst not for the faint hearted The Braided Path is a great trilogy by an underappreciated writer, the world is rich and complex and the writer’s devotion to the story is clear throughout. Left with an open ending and the promise of more Wooding has successfully captured me in his weave and, like all entangled in the weave, left me wanting more.