Across the Face of the World by Russell Kirkpatrick (Fire of Heaven: Book 1)

5/10 The story is captivating, but preachy and lacking in cohesion.

Thus begins yet another “epic” fantasy story, written by Russel Kirkpatrick. I'd been really excited to read this book for a long time, and finally found myself desiring once again to read epic fantasy. So with this on my shelf, there was nothing stopping me. That I've finished it at all, I think, speaks more to my strength of will rather than Kirkpatrick's storytelling ability.

Once again I find myself contemplating a review of a book that, though is based around an interesting premise, is let down by the authors inability to write. However, Kirkpatrick differs to the Potter and Eragon series' in that he strives for more. Is this a good thing? I'm honestly not sure. If he had gone for a more basic style of storytelling he might have produced a comprehensible book. As it stands, I found myself in a perpetual state of frustration with this book.

The book starts out slow. Very slow. It took me several months to make it beyond the first several chapters, as there was just nothing to the story that interested me. It was only when I went and read the Wikipedia summary that suggested there was better to come that I let myself stick at it.

Across the Face of the World follows a group of villagers who must bring news of an impending invasion to their leaders. The news of the invasion came from Mahnum, a father from the village, who had been to the invading country (across the other side of the continent) and had decided that returning home instead of the much shorter route to the capital city was a good idea. Not surprisingly, he and his wife end up captive and the children have to go after them.

The motivations behind a lot of what happens in this book are flimsy at best. Much of the time you are left wondering why one decision was made and not the obvious decision, which isn't even raised.

For me though, the worst downfall of this book is the narrative. A geographer and map maker by trade, Kirkpatrick has come to this book as if he was writing a fantastical Lonely Planet book rather than a fiction book. There are sometimes pages of beautiful, yet entirely unnecessary descriptions of the company's surroundings. Everything is named, and I mean everything! In fact, it is best to just ignore anything that has a capital letter at the beginning and hope for the best.

Perspective jumps around like a game of Frogger, and not just from chapter to chapter. Within chapters one page can see the perspectives of the entire company explored. And not with any indication of a swap either; it just jumps from paragraph to paragraph with no warning.

Kirkpatrick's introduction of the world's religion is ham-fisted. At times it feels more like I'm reading a bible rather than a fantasy novel. Facts are repeated over and over, people appear out of nowhere to have acquired a zealous faith in “the Most High,” and the chance for historical perspectives is thrown in almost as an afterthought.

In the end, I'm not sure that I can put much force behind my recommendation of this book. The story is captivating, but the reader is immediately pulled out of the story by weirdly descriptive passages, the feeling you are being preached at and no coherency to who is telling the story, with almost anyone who appears given a perspective.

If you have nothing better to do, pick up the book. But if you're starting out or don't have much time on your hands, don't bother. Read Lord of the Rings instead, and you'll be happier for it. I'll read book two and three, and let you know if anything improves.

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2 positive reader review(s) for Across the Face of the World


Across the Face of the World reader reviews

from Canada

To compare this book to lord of the rings is like comparing the movie Event Horizon to Star Wars. It is a completely different experience. It is true that this book is very descriptive about the surroundings and it jumps around a lot from perspective to perspective however it is not nearly as confusing as some of these people claim. The story is not perfect, however the characters are deep and each are unique with a rich back story. The first 2 chapters are a bit slow indeed however it's done right in the sense of captivating the reader's imagination and helping you understand the world in which this story takes place. What I like most about this author is he is able to write using plain and simple English instead of unnecessarily complicating an otherwise insignificant piece of information like Frank Herbert did in even the first 2 pages of Dune. This a light read and a simple story with depth. There is not much mention of magic or dragons or werewolves or rings, this a fantastic you could read to your children or if you are waiting for a delayed flight like I am right now.

from UK

The story does start off slow, but finishes well. The author of the above review compares the book to two other series, and the two he chose are very telling. Both Harry Patter and Eragon are children's books. The fact that many adults like them is fine, but they are aimed at children. To compare two children's book series to an adult series, and then decry the adult series for not being as simplistic as the children's is more a statement of the reviewer's shortcomings than those of the book. And that's really what this book suffers from, if indeed it suffers from anything. The author has refused to dumb down the story to the same level as other modern offerings. The shifts in perspective are often unexpected, but never confusing. It is not a book that can be skimmed, because you will be required to actually pay attention to the words on the page, but this is not a bad thing in comparison to the other above mentioned books that can be skimmed while watching TV and playing a game on the computer, as well. It's a good read for anyone who wants a full-fledged literary experience instead of a half-hearted, poorly scripted one. The style isn't quite what I'd like it to be, but I'd read many fewer books if I only read ones in which the style matched mine exactly.

7.4/10 from 3 reviews

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