Sunday, 19 August 2012

Review: The Builder

The Builder
The Builder by P.S. Power

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm giving this four stars because it's basically that good, despite some issues I'll talk about in a minute. It has some elements in it that I don't see often enough in fantasy, and that appeals to me.

Firstly, the main character, Tor, isn't, thankfully, a Chosen One who must stand against the Dark Lord. He's not a warrior at all, in fact. He's not on a quest, either, nor is he trying either to destroy anything, or out preserve the status quo. His actions aren't (at least, in this first book) cosmic in scope. Rather, he makes things and solves practical problems that affect people's ordinary lives.

He's a generous and good-hearted person who doesn't care about money or status. He just wants to make things and help people.

Unlike most fantasy mages, he's also a meditator. Now, if magic was real, I would expect it to require the kind of focus that meditation gives, but it's a theme you seldom see in fantasy fiction. Usually, people get their powers because they're under great stress in a desperate situation (and they're the Chosen One), despite being surly, undisciplined little so-and-sos half the time. To be fair, there are a couple of scenes here where Tor uses unexpected levels of power in a challenging situation, but the foundation is clearly the meditation.

And here is one of the issues. The narration, particularly at first, is breathless and all over the place, partly because the author is a little shaky on how to use commas and also tends to write run-on sentences. It comes across more like someone who is ADD than the disciplined meditator Tor is presented as, though it does settle down a little later on.

Tor is also very naive. He's clueless about what's going on almost all of the time, partly because of his country background, but also because he has picked up a low opinion of himself, so he doesn't think anyone really values his work or could find him attractive. The naiveté is so sustained that it borders very closely on being overdone, and maybe crosses that border a few times.

The final issue is that the book ends very abruptly. (Imagine I stopped my review there, and you may get the same feeling I had when I read the last page.)

Fortunately, there are four or five others in the series, and I've already bought the next one. An author who's doing something a little different in fantasy deserves support, even if they're not yet doing it perfectly.

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