Authors have to tread a very fine line between “great storytelling” and “contrived storytelling.” It’s a difficult line to walk, because you usually have a small set of characters to whom everything happens. It’s like watching an episode of 24; sometimes you’ll get a well written episode which works, and others, you’ll wonder how so much stuff can happen to one man in a 60 minute period of time. It doesn’t make sense. It’s contrived.
Hinterland by James Clemens is the second book in the authors ‘The Godslayer Trilogy’. I loved the first book, giving it a high score in the 90’s, because the story was brilliant, well-paced, and utterly ingenious.
This time, I have to be a little bit harsher, I think, though we’ll see how I feel by the end of this review.
First of all, if you want to get a good night sleep, make sure you start this somewhere at the beginning of a non-working Saturday. I found myself pumped full of adrenaline for the first half of this book before I was finally given a measure of respite, and even then, it was not a long respite. It’s like watching the Battle of Helms Deep for 8 hours straight; no break between action scene and death and adrenaline pumping emotions.
This is both a bit of a curse and an impressive display of writing. On the one hand, you can become overloaded with all that is going on and the speed with which it is happening. Conversely, you’re hooked into the story, hanging on by the skin of your teeth and hoping that the characters that Clemens is writing don’t die.
And Clemens knows how to write his characters. They’re beautifully fleshed out without boring the reader with details. Much of what you know about the characters, you’ve worked out for yourself, and what is written is shown slowly, revealing the deeper person beneath the words as you read each successive chapter.
This book introduced a few new characters, one of which, Brant, is the basis for my issue with contrivance. It seems his importance to the story has popped up out of nowhere, sort of like if we’d not seen Legolas or Gimli until Two Towers. Every character manages to be successfully brought to the focal point of the story, and then into each other’s presence so that all the different pieces of the puzzle can be known by every other puzzle-piece holder, and the reader.
It is this bringing together of everyone from disparate roles, locations and personalities, that stretches my suspension of disbelief a little. It felt as if there was room to expand the story a little, and not have everything so beautifully wrapped up so quickly. It felt that Clemens knew how this book was going to finish, but had forgotten to lay the groundwork for it in the previous book, and so he had to cram it all into the first half of Hinterland.
Putting all of this together, though, does not mean I did not enjoy the book. Clemens still knows how to write a cracking tale of suspense, loyalty and genre-busting ideas. His characters are beautifully rendered, invoking hate and love in equal measures where appropriate. Action scenes leave you riveted to your chair, leg bouncing, breath short, as you wait to see who survives and who will not. And the reality of the fragility of life that is portrayed through Clemens prose is upsettingly brilliant.
This is not a book to throw away or dismiss for a few faults in the authors writing. The Godslayer trilogy is going to be worth your time, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a good story.
Review by Joshua S Hill
8.6/10 from 1 reviews
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