Sunday, August 08, 2010

Edi's Spotlight: The Edge Of The World by Kevin J Anderson

I love maps, especially old maps and fantasy maps. Therefore I was quite happy when I discovered the Terra Incognita series by Kevin J Anderson. He is a well known author - Saga of Seven Suns, Star Wars, Dune - but I never read one of these books. I have been curious for what would be delivered with Terra Incognita series.

Today I can tell you a bit after reading the first book in the series: The Edge of the World (pb, 2010) [ISBN-13: 978-0316004190] by Kevin J Anderson.
"Terra Incognita - the blank spaces on the map, past the edge of the known world only by the words here be monsters.
Two nations at war, fighting for dominion over the world, pin their last hopes of ultimate victory on finding a land out of legend.
Each will send its ships to brave the untamed waters, wild storms, sea serpents, and darker dangers unseen by any man. It is a perilous undertaking, but there will always be the impetuous, the brave, and the mad, willing to leave their homes to explore unknown. Even unto the edge of the world ..." [Back of the book]
Before we go into detail you should know a bit more about world and their inhabitants.
The map of the known world shows a sand clock shaped landmass stretching from north to south. The northern part is named Tierra and is limited by the Frozen Wasted. The southern part is named Uraba and is limited by the Great Desert.

Due to belief and mythology both continents have been settled by two brothers who are worshiped in the churches of each continent.

North: settled by Aidan, worshiped by the Aidenist church which shows similarities to medieval Christendom; the provinces of Tierra are nowadays ruled by King Korastine from the capital of Calay.

South: settled by Urec, worshiped by the Ur-Sikara priesthood which let you think of medieval Islam; the leader of Uraba is Soldan Shad Imir who is supported by his heir Omra. Soldan Shah Imir rules from the Holy City of Ishalem. When I read the first time about it I thought immediately on Jerusalem.
Located on the narrow isthmus, Ishalem is the religious center of both religions!

And there is a third but not less important ethnic group: The Saedrans, well known for their maps and their navigation talent. The Saedran Guild is the keeper of all known maps (Think of the Library of Alexndria) and they constantly try to reduce the blank spaces on the world map. They are highly interested in King Korastine's plan to build a special ship to discover the unknown oceans. Most of them live in Tierra.

The people of Tierra and Uraba do not like each other very well. There is a common unease and more and more skirmishes occur. During the first six chapters we meet several main characters - the young couple Adrea and her hubby, sailor Criston; the talented Saedran mapmaker Aldo, who wants to become as famous as his father; the heir of Tierra, princess Anjine and her friend and Korastine's ward Mateo; the secret observer of Uraba, Aidenest prester Hannes. Some of them are inflicted in skirmishes.

The situation is best described with two continents at the edge of war. Who will light the fuse?

In order to prevent war King Korastine and Soldan Shah Imir meet in Ishalem in order to sign an edict which divide the known world in two spheres. Then a small spark set the world on fire and the story in motion ....

The Edge of the World stands for 627 pages divided into 126 numbered and named chapters (average chapter length 4.9 pages) plus four maps plus a nine page glossary. A lot of stuff.
Advice: Mind the glossary in the first third of the novel due to some spoiler.
I don't mind books in doorstop format and I don't mind a lot of chapters where each chapter told from POV of a person more or less important for the story..
But I don't like chapters only one or two pages long. And there are some of them in the book. I think that is related to my reading habit. After each chapter I take some notes for my review. So you can imagine how often I had to put down the book. Anyhow it lessened my reading pleasure.

You should also be aware of the fact that is far beyond to be "a spectacular adventure on the high seas" as mentioned on the back of the book. Most of the action takes place neither under nor on water.

So, criticism is over. Let's have a look at the enjoyable things.

The Edge of the World is the first book in a trilogy and it is epic in itself. It covers a huge amount time. You follow nearly the lifespan of several characters! There are "good" guys and "bad" guys and they are not limited to one side. You can easily connect with characters and in case you can be consistent with their behavior, Kevin J Anderson delivers enough information to understand why people to certain things. And some of the characters show their talent to veil their motifs. Beside that the influence of religion is omnipresent.

The story is also epic in the number of events. After half of th book I thought, that other authors would fill a complete trilogy with all the events. And there are several twists and turns. Some expected, others unexpected. Consecutive chapters are always different: Action is followed by inner thoughts which are followed by a travel description which is followed by a intrigue, and so on. And there are some perfidiously ideas turned into reality. You will notice when you read it. All in all the story is all well-paced though the number of chapters feign a speed which is not real. The Edge of the World is more than just an adventure. it is an expedition to explore uncharted lands, characters, ideas and beliefs. And by reading The Edge of the World you also discover parts of yourself...

The world itself (flora and fauna, climate, landscape) and also all the technological and cultural achievements (from sailing vessels over beliefs and myths to hot air balloons) are consistent, reliable and comprehensible. There is no real magic in this world but a presence of supernatural. I can't withstand to mention that there is a leviathan ...

For such a long novel it was a quick and enjoyable read. I definitely want to know how the story continues. Fortunately book two The Map of All Things (2010) [ISBN-13: 978-0316004213] by Kevin J Anderson is on my TBR pile.

You would like to discover a limited world which drools over to find uncharted territory and due to growing resentments is on the edge of war then read The Edge of the World.

Finally it is worth to mention that there is a CD soundtrack available to accompany the book.
Following video gives you a first impression.


Sarah said...

This series has been looking at me for a while. I (like you) have a thing for maps. I don't even know what it is. I could literally study a map for hours sometimes. If a fantasy book has a compelling map in it, I have to give it a try. It's impossible for me to resist.

I've read the Saga of the Seven Suns (in all honesty, I've read the first three books). It's an interesting series. I reviewed the first one on my blog somewhere in the past month or two. Seeing as how I've only read some of Anderson's Sci Fi stuff, I'm anxious to get my hands on his fantasy debut work.

Anyway, how about my loooooong comments? haha. Also, I know you left a comment on my blog about a week ago about me emailing you regarding working together on some stuff. I PROMISE I haven't forgotten. I'm going to get to it hopefully soon. I've been so busy recently!! I just didn't want you to think I had forgotten.

ediFanoB said...

What a long comment1

I did not read the Saga of the Seven Suns.
Need to read your review of the first book soon.

Sarah, don't worry and take your time. Rome was not build in a day :-)

I was sure you did not forget me. I also belong to the group of busy people.

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