Science fiction and fantasy
The Edge of the World
by Kevin J. Anderson
Meanwhile the secular and neutral Saedran people have a quest of their own to consider. These people prize knowledge, and it's their ultimate ambition to complete a map of the whole world, no matter how dangerous such a project may be.
This isn't the kind of book where it's easy to single out one character as the main protagonist. The action is spread out over two continents and several years, and it takes in multiple points of view. One of the main characters is Criston Vora, a sailor who feels the attraction of the ocean but is torn between his desire to explore and his love for his wife, Adrea.
Another traveller is Aldo, a young man with a good memory and a gift for geography. He's a Saedran, and his talents make him a natural explorer. We also follow the adventures of Hannes, a fanatical priest sent to infiltrate Uraban society. Everything that happens to him serves to reinforce Hannes' beliefs, but in spite of his zealotry he's one of the most fascinating characters.
As well as featuring ordinary people, the plot also enters the realms of royal palaces and castles, with all the scheming and politics that entails. With such a lot going on the story tends to get bogged down by its own scope, making the pace leaden in places. With such a multitude of different characters readers don't get as much chance to get under the skin of any single character. This means The Edge of the World tends to be less intimate than other novels, and more impersonal. What's more, although the characters are often emotional courtship is something that gets skirted around, and the author never ventures into the bedroom. There's no hanky-panky.
However there is enough violence to ensure that this book doesn't sit easily on the Young Adult shelves. Some of the mayhem is caused by somewhat over-the-top monsters, which tend to jar with the atmosphere of the rest of the story, as though they were tacked on as an afterthought instead of being part of the original plan.
However, in spite of certain problems with pace this can be an engaging novel. Characters such as Adrea and Princess Anjine evolve from fairly unassuming beginnings to blossom into intriguing change-makers. Sometimes it's too easy to see what's coming next, but on the whole The Edge of the World has more wonders to offer than it has disappointments.
14th June 2010
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