Monday, 24 March 2014

Review: Orison

Orison by Daniel Swensen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is sword-and-sorcery done right.

Not only is the writing and editing almost flawless, the plotting, the character development and the worldbuilding are all at a very high standard. I seldom see a book this good.

Set in a grim world, but not grimdark, it's the story of hapless lowlifes doing the right thing, largely because of their friendship with each other, at personal cost. There's tragedy, but it's not all tragedy. (In fact, there are some wonderful wry comic moments in the dialogue, especially between the mage and the warrior.)

The characters have depth, and there are things they care about and will fight for. They're proactive and largely self-rescuing.

The world is the creation of powerful, arbitrary, even malevolent dragon-gods (and how cool is that?) who continue to interfere for their own amusement and to advance their inexplicable agendas, and against this seemingly hopeless backdrop the characters do the right thing anyway.

I normally only give five stars to books that have an extra layer of depth to them, that point outside themselves to deeper truths about the human condition, and/or those that are beautifully as well as competently written. Although the language here doesn't make it all the way to beautiful, it's certainly got the competent dial turned all the way up, and everything else is also so well done that I decided to award the fifth star - even before I worked out that this book does have something profound to say about the human condition and the perseverance of hope and friendship in the face of oppression.

I bought Orison because I'd seen several friends recommend it, and I wasn't at all disappointed. I recommend it very highly indeed.

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