The Promise of the Child is a hard book to read, but it is also one that is incredibly rewarding. It is not the sort that gives everything away at the start. You jump straight into the lives of the characters and have to connect all the pieces together for yourself. It reveals how everything relates to each other as times goes on.
For some readers this may be off putting, for those that like plots plain and straightforward it will probably be difficult, but it really kept me reading. Slowly, ever so slowly, the mysteries began to become a little clearer. Part of this effect was created by Lycaste. He is an artist, and has spent years scale modelling his own ideal house, and he is very reclusive. He has fallen in love with a close friend, ultimately, trying to deal with the pain her rejections have caused him. And that’s it. That’s his world. He literally has no idea what else is really happening because he hasn’t been anywhere.
This is where the story begins to feel dystopian. Lycaste’s life is unimportant to the immortals, to those that have true power. They have lived thousands of years and they control everything. Lycaste isn’t really aware of any of the history associated with his existence. He knows nothing of the wars or the politics that have caused his present situation. So as the story progresses and we delve deeper into the perspective of the other characters, this universe becomes increasingly complex. In the beginning I felt a little like Lycaste, bewildered by the world at large, but by the end I began to understand the complexities of the situation.
And the situation is very complex. There are a number of characters bidding for the immortal throne, a right normally granted to the oldest of immortals. The current leader appears to have gone insane to his followers, though in reality he seems to have tapped into a higher state of consciousness. Hopefully this will be something explored later in the series along with his talk of ghosts and the suggestions made by other characters of strange happenings across the story. Despite this political upheaval, there are other wars brewing.
It’s a rather large story, and it’s a rather large world. It has a massive sense of history with its segments in ancient history and flashbacks. Another important thing to note is the glossary at the back of this book. It is an invaluable resource when reading this. If you want to be able to follow the plot, you have to refer to it frequently. This isn’t a bad thing. If anything it’s a good thing because it means that the narrative isn’t constantly interrupted with lengthy explanations of everything. Without the glossary, this book would probably have had to be around 800+ pages for it to make any sense. There are a lot of people to remember, even more places, along with the distinguishing factors between races.
So this is a massive story with a plot too large to condense fairly in a review. I’ve only mentioned one character, though there are many interesting figures in here. It is a truly epic space opera that is told in an unconventional way with lots of characters and even more originality.
Review by Sean Barrs
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