Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson
sbisson

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The Thursday Morning "It's Been A While" Review: Sea Without A Shore

Sean Russell's "Moontide and Magic Rise" is really a big book, split into two parts, the second of which is Sea Without A Shore. It's a slow read, though not because it's a bad book - instead it's its very complexity that leaves you spending time thinking about what you've just read.

In a country that feels like early 19th century Britain, the magic has finally gone away. Deliberately locked away by the mages of old, its power has little or no effect on the world. Instead, the age of reason, of empiricists, has arrived. The Iron Bridge is ready to be inaugaurated, and the industrial revolution is just around the corner. But there are still traces of magic in the world, among them the herb regis, which has unnaturally extented the life of the King. Plot and counterplot ensue, as a small group attempts to recover the lost knowledge of the mages, and to let wil magic loose in the world once more. As part of this plot they have sent the youg empricist Tristram Flattery to the far isles of Varua to bring back more regis - though really they intend him to be the distant focus of a poweful ritual. But the blood of mages flows in Flattery's veins and he may not be the easy touch the conspirators have expected. On the island of Varua and in a ruined abbey back home the magic starts to escape...

The home story feels like a regency romance with the twists and turns back home, like the voyage of the Beagle meets the mutiny on the Bounty on the other side of the ocean. Russell's attention to detail is on a par with Patrick O'Brian, and the the characters feel at home in his dense prose. Much happens, some inconsequent, some vitally important, and it is up to us, the readers, to find our own way through the layers of plit and counterplot. Characters switch sides, and may not be just who and what they appear. In the end Russell has left us with a fascinating and complex read, that ends not the way we'd expect...
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