W. B. Kamffer
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Union of Renegades is quite simply an engaging story. There are some things I don't like, but these are more down to personal taste than down to anything that might be classified as poor writing or storytelling. Indeed, the story itself drew me in, and I hungrily devoured each chapter, eager to return to the adventures of Dreibrand Veta and Miranda as they explored the vastness of the Wilderness and encountered strange races and foreign cultures.
There is a nice sense of history underpinning the story, a real feeling that the present in which Dreibrand and Miranda find themselves is the result of a steady sequence of events stretching back into the past. All too often, this is not the case in fantasy, with histories seemingly punctuated by earth-shattering events every two or three thousand years with nothing but boredom in between. What this history does is create a number of really difficult and complicated situations that Dreibrand and Miranda are forced to navigate, relying on logic and a guess at foreign proprieties to avoid giving insult and inviting some horrible fate on themselves.
And it is in the characters of this novel that Ms. Falbe shines as a storyteller. The characters are quite simply excellently drawn. If it is possible to say they are too lifelike, then they are indeed. I found myself really disliking some or expressing frustration with others. And herein lies about the only problem I have with the story, at least on a large scale: While Dreibrand is certainly the good guy and a decent sort, I just didn't feel 100% behind him. Even worse was my response to Miranda, who deserves sympathy if any character does. And yet, I often found myself thinking that she deserved all the trouble that came to her, that she just didn't think about her actions, that she was inviting harm simply by doing things that were completely avoidable. It was kind of frustrating, and I could imagine myself tossing a physical book aside in disgust-especially when she turned her self-inflicted wounds in self-pitying, even at one stage getting furious at Dreibrand when she was so very clearly in the wrong. In real life, I just can't stand people like that.
And yet, this mix of a uncertainty I feel about Dreibrand and frustration I feel at Miranda is all the result of characters who are genuinely real and lifelike. They reminded me of people I know, and that is what solicited such strong responses.
Of all the characters in the story, it is really Shan, the non-human Rys lord, who gave me someone to cheer. His cause is right. His heart is noble. His manner is gentle. He inspires confidence going forward, and while I was drawn into the story early on to see what would next befall Dreibrand and Miranda, I really found myself caring most about Shan by the book's end. I want him to win-and I almost don't care about the other characters (but, again, not in an apathetic "meh" sort of way).
The story at the end of Union of Renegades, the first in a four-part series, leaves us on the eve of a great war about to open between Shan and Queen Onja of the Rys, a villain who really inspires my dislike, even hatred. And here's the thing: I love the fact that our villain is a corporeal, physical, rational being and not some ethereal force or ancient spirit. I love Lord of the Rings, but Sauron is not exactly the kind of villain you cheer against; he's just sort of there. Having a physical menace like Onja is just great, and the fact that the traditional good-evil duality is existent in this novel but not lodged in the forms of human beings is great as well. The Rys are suitably alien enough that this simple polarization doesn't bother me so much as it does when encountered in human characters (I'm looking at you, O Noble Aragorn!). But, then, this isn't fantasy in the LotR mould, but rather seems to derive much of its milieu from The Song of Ice and Fire.
At the end of the day, I thoroughly enjoyed Union of Renegades and I am thoroughly enjoying The Goddess Queen, the next book in the series. Do yourself a favour and pick this one up. The sheer fact that I recommend this book despite its more gritty and Martinian production speaks volumes-as I've made no attempt to hide my dislike for Martin's works and the host of imitators that have followed.