Under A Colder Sun by Greg James
|Book Name:||Under A Colder Sun|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Ebook|
|Release Date:||August 23, 2014|
A city in peril, a king with a daring plan, a mysterious bandit and a guard driven by idealistic honour. It all makes for a good set-up and promises a great deal.
The actual story begins in an inn, as many good fantasy novels do, and the tone it strikes is dark and brutal. Leste and her captain are engaged upon a mission for the king, one that could hold the key to save their country. If they can reach Khale, if they can convince him to aid the king, then there is a chance.
Let’s talk positives first of all.
The inciting incident is right at the start and we realise quickly just how desperate the situation is. Leste, who we are introduced to first, is a determined lady. A guard for the king, or a soldier, is not afraid to use her sword or knife to solve the problems that confront her. There is a sense that she is good with her sword, but in the few moments of action she wins only because of luck, or loses and is spared her life. She makes for a reasonably interesting character. An orphan, I think, raised by a guard captain and in a relationship with the widow of another guardsman. Leste is always trying to the best she can be, the best with the sword, the most honourable, the strongest. There is strength in her character, a counterpoint, in some ways, to the other female protagonist.
Khale, the villain, anti-hero, is intriguing. A bandit, an admitted rapist, a murderer, but with a soft-edge – if that isn’t an oxymoron, and I’m worried it is. Khale can use magic, his sword is strong and he has seen everything the world has to offer. Nothing is a danger to Khale. Many hints of Khale’s past are dropped in as the story progresses; some are stories, some rumour and some directly from his lips.
The Princess Milanda is an innocent. Eighteen years she has lived in the palace, protected from the desperate circumstances, and contact with any boys, by her father, King Alosse. Her journey through the story is, perhaps, the most interesting as she is forced to undergo some changes. The understanding she develops of the world around her allows us to experience the darkness that exists in it.
Lastly, the technical side of the writing is good. That is to say, the sentences are well constructed, the paragraphs vary in length, and the chapters are short creating a sense of pace. The copy-editing has been done exceedingly well.
However, this is a short book. I read it, start to finish in a few hours and by halfway I was left thinking there is no way the author is going to wrap this up in the next half. There is too much more to see, to unravel, too far to travel. But, they did and of the ending I can only say I remain lost and a little confused.
Now, this could be because I ended up quick reading some chapters which seemed to deal in overlong, over use of symbolism, and overly descriptive scene setting. I was willing, in some chapters, the characters to get a move on or do something. I may have missed something in those chapters, but the mere fact that I was disinterested in them means the information could have been delivered in a more interesting way.
Khale is unstoppable. There is no threat that he cannot overcome with sword or magic. He is, by his own admission, immortal. Though he seeks death, it is not with any gusto or drive. The main villain is not the main villain or the main threat. So who are we rooting for? Who are we hating? Where is the danger coming from?
This immoral man, this rapist and killer, has a soft heart for women and girls. He’ll kill a boy without qualm, but a woman who tries to kill him, he spares. I am not sure if the author wants us to feel sympathy or hate for Khale. In the end, I felt nothing.
Leste’s character could benefit from some more development and there is a rich seam to mine here, in my opinion. Her relationship with widow, the child they are raising together, the derision and dislike of the other guards – it could all have been played upon and her character enriched.
And back to those chapters I quick-read. I lost interest in them because they were dreams, recollections, or thought processes that went on and on. I often had to go back to the beginning of the chapter to re-read who was having the dream or the memory or the thoughts.
The ending, back to that again, when it comes, and it comes remarkably quickly (I did not entirely realise the book had ended when it did) does not represent the struggle of the characters. It does not ‘pay off’ any of the danger or trials they have faced throughout the short novel.
More depth to the characters, a more developed threat/antagonist, a few more pages (or chapters) to deliver a better ending, and making Khale something less than immortal/invincible would turn the very solid, at times downright great prose, into a book I could enjoy more. As it stands, I find it hard to recommend.