Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: Altaica

Title: Altaica
Author: Tracy M. Joyce
Published: June, 2014
Publisher: Odyssey Books
This will be a brief review.  I picked out Altaica from NetGalley, mainly for its cover.  An intense-looking young woman armed with a bow, with a huge, snarling wolf for backup?  "Yes!" I thought.


Truth is, I took a gamble on Altaica, knowing it was published as an e-book by Odyssey Books, a small time digital publisher.  I understood that its caliber was dubious.  But, I've fallen totally in love with digitally published books before.  (See Emperor's Edge.) I hoped that Altaica would be a worthwhile read. Unfortunately, I was bored to tears.

Altaica is set in a fantasy world and follows Isaura, a girl of mixed blood, whose tribe is on the run from some bloodthirsty invaders.  Isaura's role in her tribe is tenuous.  On one hand, she is her people's healer, an adept warrior, and part of the group of people who planned the tribe's escape.  On the other hand, her mixed heritage makes her the object of suspicion and hatred.

The book opens with Isaura scouting the approach of the invaders and eluding them narrowly.  It was a pretty exciting opening, but the book went downhill from there.  I started chafing under the slow pacing.  For some reason, I expected the book to roll along a good deal faster, but the narrative stumbled over extraneous details, like the minor dramas of various townsfolk. Entire chapters would go by where nothing would happen beyond petty disagreements amongst Isaura's fractious, unlikable tribe.  Not only did I not care for their troubles, but I started to actively dislike some characters that I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be fond of.

Another complaint — I assumed that Isaura would be our main character, but the narration diverged from her abruptly to focus on other people, and a dumb injury — she trips, basically — causes Isaura to be crippled early into the story.  Then, about a fourth of the way through the novel, something occurs that yanks the narrative in a completely different direction, with new narrators, and new issues.  Now, maybe a decision like this could be dynamic, but all I felt was exhaustion at this turn of events.  "You mean I have to learn about new characters and a new plotline?" I whined to myself internally.  Yes, we do.

At that point, Altaica was beyond the chance of winning my good opinion, whatever that is worth.  At the end of the book, there was a note saying that the second installment was coming out in 2015, but I won't be visiting it.  There are so many more worthwhile books on my to-read shelf and you can only read so many books in a lifetime.

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