01/09/2009. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
pub: TOR-UK. 293 page enlarged paperback. Price: £10.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4050-5549-9. 386 page paperback. Price: £6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-330-44206-0.
check out websites: www.toruk.com and www.panmacmillan.com
Every reader likes to find a new author they can form a rapport with. It is easy to stick with old favourites and know that you will probably be delighted with the contents but sooner or later, there will be the six, nine, twelve month wait for the next one. What to do in the meantime?
There will be recommendations from friends, bookshops pushing certain authors, reviews extolling praises, magazines saying, 'If you like...try'. The choice is enormous. Maybe you will strike lucky and add another favourite to your list. Unfortunately for some authors, their publishers do not seem to be on their side. With fantasy series, the publishers tend to play fair, announcing on the cover that the volume is Book One, Book Three, Book Sixty-four. Liz Williams has been done a disservice.
'Bloodmind' has a cover that looks unfinished, but the futuristic vessel depicted indicates that the content is Science Fiction. So far, so good. Liz Williams has a reputation of being a fine writer. Even better. Yet there is nothing about this book that indicates that it is anything other than a stand-alone story. It begins promisingly.
The one-eyed warrior, Vali Hallsdottir, has returned to her home city on Muspell to find her friend and mentor mutilated and murdered. Almost at the same time, the citadel is attacked, Vali captured and interrogated, before being rescued by the sea people. Reluctantly, she teams up with Thorn Eld, a man who until now she has regarded as an enemy and to be avoided. Together, they set out on a hunt to find the assassin. The answers are connected with two other planets.
The plot is complicated by having three first person narratives. The first is Vali's story, the other two are from the points of view of two other women, Hunan, who has fled from her husband and children, and Sedra, leaving the family home as winter approaches because she is the oldest and will be one less mouth to feed. They live on different planets where the societies have different structures.
They are women who on the surface have little in common, though for Sedra and Hunan there are times in their lives when their intelligence appears to be switched off. For Sedra's people it is during childhood, when children are abandoned to a feral life and return to civilisation at puberty. For Hunan, it is during the privations of marriage.
As Vali and Thorn seek the connections, it becomes obvious that too much of the background of these people only seems confusing because there is at least one previous volume in which things are explained. This is a shame because readers new to Williams' work will be put off. She develops complex ideas which cannot easily be encapsulated in a few words or sentences. The answer is to start with another of her novels and leave this one until later.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA