Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Abendau's Legacy by Jo Zebedee

On the 4th of October, 11:39am, I received my ARC of Abendau's Legacy from Jo Zebedee. At 6pm the next day, I email her back to tell her I've finished it.

In that time I also slept for about 12 hours, prepared for, interviewed for and started an internship, walked a half hour around London to find KFC, and performed various other parts of life's miscellany. This was not an empty 30 hours. I finished the book stood on the London Overground, swaying slightly with my big old laptop resting in one hand.

I really liked this book. 

Of course, I was primed to. Abendau's Legacy is the last in a trilogy and having gotten along just dandy with books one and two, I opened up the file for book three with confidence. But getting someone to like your trilogy ender is easy. Getting them to love it is hard. Readers get their set ideas of how the characters should work and the author has to both work with them yet confound them. Expectations are sky high. One fluffed plot resolution can drag the whole thing down.

Every author has that moment where they think this is happening with their book
An example of this is that, despite being clearly utterly captivated, I'm still not quite sure whether I really like Abendau's Legacy or whether I loved it. This is a question that sets a ferociously high standard though as I've loved very few books this year. Suffice to say all fans of the trilogy should walk away satisfied; any new readers should go and pick up Abendau's Heir, knowing that the series is finished and finished well.

At its heart, Abendau's Legacy is about the main cast confronting all their failures of the previous two books and setting them right. It is not the hero's lap of honour; it is not their last desperate roll of the dice either. Kare, Sonly and Lichio all have their chances to walk away and deliberately decide not to do so. In doing so, they set the theme of the story. Every scene, every page can be read as a facet of the need to confront the mistakes of the past before people can move on. I don't know whether this is a deliberate choice by Zebedee or not. Regardless, it works. It gives the book real emotional heft and closure.

This is reinforced by the roles given to Kerra and Baelan, the two children introduced in Sunset over Abendau. They are placed front and centre with their older relatives and while the older characters correct their mistakes, the kids both struggle with the impact of that and make their own. It adds a nice contrast and another view of the human cost of these great epics so beloved of SFF. Its also quite unusual in that I'm really struggling to think of other books in the genre with main characters of such a range of ages, save A Song of Ice and Fire. Zebedee's desire to explore the human cost and willingness to make unconventional decisions in doing so remains one of her big strengths and selling points.

Fortunately, none of the characters have pets
Speaking of characters who take a step forwards, Lichio seems to go from major supporting actor to co-star. His motivations and actions receive more depth and he gets a bigger share of the emotional scenes. The result is a better book. I've made the criticism before that unrelieved grimdark is a bad thing (see the link up the page). Well, Lichio is the relief. He has a levity of spirit, even when undergoing pain, that keeps things from getting too intense. The comparison that springs to mind is the Wheel of Time; he is Mat to Kare's Rand. Not a joker, but the straight man when life is getting too dramatically overwrought. Jordan had plans for outrigger novels involving Mat and I think Lichio is just as good a target for a spin-off (hint hint).

So why am I unsure about whether I loved it?

Abendau's Legacy reads fast. Very fast. Hell, I've pointed out just how fast I've read it. And maybe, just maybe its too fast.

A lot of things happen in Abendau's Legacy and they happen in a relatively short amount of pages. Looking at the kindle files, this is comfortably the shortest of the trilogy. Usually things are the opposite and there's a reason for that. There are plenty of relationships that I wish could have been dealt with in more detail, such as that between Kerra and Baelan, and Lichio and Josef. And all of the other relationships in the book. Literally all of them (well, barring those involving the Empress). There's a few moments where I don't just wish I could have spent more time with the characters, but felt the plot needed to. There were important moments where it was a little jarring just how quickly they flew by. I've always viewed Zebedee's writing as being fast paced. Here, it is breakneck. She did actually tell me she worried about things going too slowly. That's a bit like Slayer being concerned that Raining Blood wasn't quick enough.

Artist's impression of Abendau Legacy's plot
Here's the rub though - would I have finished this book so fast if the story wasn't so taut? Every chapter raises new important questions about what happens next. There's something very moreish about that when done well, as it is here. 

I can guarantee that there will be someone - multiple someones, lots of them - who absolutely definitely fall in love with this book because of how fast it is. A few will have my reservations, only more so. This is a matter of taste after all.

And how will I feel about Abendau's Legacy six months down the line? Five years? After all, I'm not quite done making up my mind now and books, like all other forms of media, can grow on us or become old and pale. In the here and now though, I'm undecided whether I love it. Which means maybe I do. Which is, just so we're clear, a pretty big recommendation from me.

How big is pretty big? To approach this in a round the bushes way, I've noticed I often compare Zebedee to some pretty badass authors. There's two reasons for this:

  1. No one is going to read a writing blog where *everything* is explained by reference to Extreme Metal, collision sports, gastronomy and cat pictures. Some form of comparison to other writers is necessary. Breaks my heart but that's the truth. I'm trying though.
  2. They just flow outta the fingers.

They just do. She writes memorable characters and epic situations that stand with the big boys and girls, so its natural to compare her to them. Abendau's Legacy is her best example of this yet by some distance, and I say this without saying anything rude about Zebedee's other books. So pretty damn big.

Now there's a slight caveat to that. Character and situation are generally the most important things to me in a book. I'm in my glory here. People who demand deep immersive world building might not do so well with these books. Likewise readers who demand very complex stories. The book is good enough that I think such may well like it, but these are not the story's strengths.

Anyone who's looking for characters first though, could make a best new friend here. I can't recommend it strongly enough to those readers. I imagine most reading this will have the trilogy so far but those who have not, go and start at the beginning of the trilogy. It starts very well and it ends excellently. Hmm. Maybe I do love this book after all. Go and give yourself a chance to do so too.

Abendau's Legacy will be published on October 24th by Tickety Boo Press. It can be pre-ordered on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. More information on Jo Zebedee's books can be found on her website. I would like to thank Jo and Tickety Boo Press for my Advanced Review Copy. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

No comments:

Post a Comment