Thursday, March 8, 2012

"The Ruined City" by Paula Brandon (reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

The Author at Wikipedia
Order The Ruined City HERE
Read FBC Review of The Traitor's Daughter

"Paula Brandon’s epic and captivating trilogy continues as magic and mystery wreak havoc with the very fabric of existence.

Reality is wavering. Soon its delicate balance will shift and an ancient force will return to overwhelm the Veiled Isles. Now those with the arcane talent forge an uneasy alliance in hopes that their combined abilities are enough to avert an eerie catastrophe. Yet it may be too late. The otherworldly change has begun. The streets of the city are rife with chaos, plague, and revolt. And it is here that Jianna Belandor, once a pampered daughter of privilege, returns to face new challenges.

The dead walk the streets. The docile amphibian slaves of humanity have taken up arms. Jianna’s home lies in ruins. Her only happiness resides in her growing attraction to Falaste Rione, a brilliant nomadic physician whose compassion and courage have led him to take dangerous risks. Jianna, stronger and more powerful than she knows, has a role to play in the unfolding destiny of her world. But a wave of madness is sweeping across the land, and time is running out—even for magic. "

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "The Ruined City" is a direct sequel to "The Traitor's Daughter" and a typical middle series novel insofar things advance but nothing is really resolved. The book was still fun to read as style but the content was too standard this time so I found myself reading a few pages and then putting it down so I do not get too bored by what happens and then repeating this a few times, until I finished it maybe a month after I started it.

There are a few twists and the ending is quite interesting - it is similar to how the first novel ended so with a dramatic touch - but in typical middle book fashion, story-lines that split earlier and characters whose coming apart was a major part of the first volume, remain split this time and remain apart, but in a time sensitive switch of places which read just a little contrived.

I also found Aureste's change in focus and outlook somewhat unconvincing and all his storyline which is the big picture thread after all, seemed very "unreal" given the way the world building - occupation, constraints, even character relationships - has been presented earlier. In many ways he becomes a more interesting character true, but the whole change of focus in "let's forget everything and let's go save the world" - this without the occupiers otherwise portrayed as keeping a tight leash on the occupied seeming to notice or care - jarred to a large extent.

In contrast I found Jianna's storyline much more interesting and "natural" and her transformation from "smart but bookish, other worldly pampered girl" to a practical, let's do what is needed to survive and help my new found friends, continued apace, though like with the big picture issue nothing was really solved here.

The book and the series to date excels at portraying strong women who are determined to do what it takes to reach their goals, while Jianna is getting there and her character arc is quite fascinating and the reason I enjoyed the novel and I plan to read The Wanderers which presumably will end the trilogy, and this finale volume will decide how I will regard the series overall.

So to sum quickly, The Ruined City (recommended novel of 2012) focuses more on the big picture than I found desirable or interesting as the whole "ancient evil, world is in danger, let's go save it" seems to be so predictably done these days - and here it is no exception to a large extent - that it has become a reason to stop reading a book whose focus is there.

On the other hand the personal stories, especially Jianna's, are still fascinating and represent the strength of the author as she has shown us in her wonderful 1990 novels like Illusion. I really hope the last volume will be very strong there, though I fear to some extent that it will go the whole faux-drama of everything seeming lost until at the last minute the heroes save the world and everybody lives happily ever after while all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed, which seems to be the way traditional fantasy series end these days. We'll see in July...

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