The Weavers of Saramyr by Chris Wooding

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Rating 8.8/10
I found this a superb fantasy novel, if a trifle lacking in depth occasionally.

Chris Wooding's fully fledged trilogy opener, The Weavers of Saramyr, trumpets a stunning talent on the fantasy stage from a young author. It is a tale woven with skill and deft characterisation with its oriental backdrop of a emperor nation that lives on the fear of Aberrants so expertly controlled by the sickeningly evil Weavers, represented by Vyrrch.

Whenever you start a new fantasy series you find out quite quickly which of the clichéd magic conduits the author has settled on, whether it be a ring, a sword, a staff or simply the will and the word. In this case, Wooding has provided a new concept: Magic through masks, or True Masks. The older they are the more powerful they become as they steal the personalities and skills of their previous owners (unfortunately, an image of Jim Carrey cannot help but come to mind). Into this mix is the general populace fear of Aberrants (think X-Men) and a ripe political situation as the Empress Anais' daughter, Lucia, is discovered to be such an Aberrant. Whilst dynastic problems (and a boor of a husband) assail the Empress and we're on the cusp of civil war, a young woman named Kaiku is brought back from death by her maidservant Asara to find her family destroyed by Shin-Shin. With her own mask in hand (as her only family legacy) she eventually settles on the first stage of a personal quest to avenge her family journeying with Asara and the monk, Tane, to the hidden monastery where the witch stones that blight the land and give the weavers power are hidden. Her personal trials and epiphany are played against a backdrop of a group of Aberrants dedicated to encouraging the skills of those so gifted and eventually formulating a plan to kidnap the Heir-Empress to save her from those who would see her murdered.

Whilst Anais and her husband, Durun, deal with a rampaging capital city and civil war through their streets, the select band enter the city sewers to take the Heir-Empress as the ordered world of Blood Erinima collapses into civil strife. As both enemy and friend fall in the climatic chapters, Kaiku learns more of her destiny and Wooding achieves much in bringing a sense of hope and danger to a world shifting in its grasp on power.

I found this a superb fantasy novel, if a trifle lacking in depth occasionally as the author forced plot upon us at a speed that seemed to not give the full consideration and build up it deserved. Several potential earth shattering revelations were thrown in glibly which could have benefited from a few more chapters built around them. Still, it did not detract too much as characterisation and descriptive acumen wove a tightly narrated tale that promised much and delivered often. For this reader, at least, the Skein of Lament will be eagerly sought after.

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