Shadowfall by James Clemens. (Book One of the Godslayer Chronicles)
The hero, Tylar, has already been crippled and thrown out of the order of Shadowknights. Now his luck gets even worse as he is in the wrong place at the wrong time, when a half-seen sorcerous entity kills the local goddess, and Tylar is blamed. He goes on the run and tries to find out what is really happening, unearthing treachery and corruption among the Shadowknights and the local gods.
Clemen’s world has technology replaced by magic for many things such as flying machines. The plot, unfortunately is also full of mechanisms, and seemed very contrived as the hero runs from one threatening situation to another.
Verdict: not bad enough to cast aside, but not good enough to induce me to read volume 2.
Spirit Gate by Kate Elliot (Book One of ‘Crossroads’) 630pp.
The Hundred has no central government but was formerly ruled by the unearthly Guardians. Now the Reeves, patrollng the land slung under giant eagles, are the only authority, an authority that is slipping as violence and disorder creeps across the land.
The novel follows the stories of Joss, a reeve who has lost his lover, killed by violent insurgents a decade earlier, and two outsiders, Anji, and his wife Mai, fleeing dynastic struggle in an adjacent empire. Anji, a prince of the Qin, has command of two hundred trained warriors. We also follow the tales of other, lesser characters.
Elliot skilfully evokes the settings and the contrasting cultures of the different countries, and does not spare us on the beastliness of medaeval life, especially as it affects women.The years of unrest provoke no effective response, nor any grasp of the situation. There is a decent plot as Joss struggles with his own demons and starts to uncover what is going on. Various characters are well drawn, and I began to care what happened to them all. The novel only jars when fantastic things are inserted too abruptly into the story.