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Merchants and Maji: Two Tales of the Dissolutionverse Paperback – August 23, 2016
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About the Author
I am a North Carolina native and a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. In no particular order, I am a mechanical engineer, a karate instructor, a video and board gamer, a reader, and a writer. In my spare time, I wrangle three cats and a bald guinea pig, and my wife wrangles me (not an easy task). We both enjoy putting our pets in cute little costumes and then taking pictures of them repeatedly.
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Prot and crew try to peddle their wares on the Sureriaj homeworld when things go sideways due to some protesters. They’re forced to close up shop and flee the area which turns riotous. Without being able to sell their wares, they can’t pay for a portal to the next of the ten homeworlds.
That is until Prot is offered the deal of a lifetime by a Sureri grand-dame. All she wants is for them to deliver medicine to his own homeworld. The pay would be good and they would be going to a much more hospitable place. The catch? Something feels off. She’s not telling him everything, but if she’s to be believed, it’s medicine. Even if it’s smuggling, how bad could it be?
The First Majus in Space:
Kashidur City is unveiling a monument to their ingenuity and Majus Origon has a front row seat to it. Methiemum is reaching to the stars, beginning with launching a manned spacecraft at one of the moons, Ksupara. The crowd is ready to witness to the greatest form of travel since the maji portals between the ten worlds.
Origon watches Majus Teju, the one to serve the craft’s guide, climb to the ship’s entrance. Gunshots ring out and Teju slumps over. Origon tries to track the shooter, but the countdown has already begun and can’t be stopped. If the mission is to continue it now needs Origon to step in. Amidst tragedy, he has to become their guide there and land them safely.
Merchants and Maji: two tales of intrigue featuring devious plots, shady characters, and those that might expose them. I was definitely interested in the idea of following this “Dissolutionverse” and what adventure William had waiting. I was not disappointed in reading these stories. Each one kept me fully invested in the plot all the way up to the end.
There were many things I liked about this book, but I think one of the more interesting is that each story stands alone. You don’t have to have read one to get the other, but there are points that actually tie both stories together indirectly. William also used the ten homeworlds well, not just populating them with “human-type” characters, but a wide range of races.
Prot and his crew were about as varied and colorful as they come, each one providing just a component to their trading operations. Though we follow Prot, through his eyes, I did feel connections to the other characters and was rooting for each of them in different ways. They had personality and weren’t just a band of Yes Men and Yes Women. Most notably was Prot’s love interest Amra. She isn’t afraid to vocalize her dissatisfaction for situations, and stands up to Prot when he tries placating her.
Origon on the other hand is a bird-like being; a Kirian. He’s a bit arrogant, overly confident in himself, and to top it off irritated and jealous of the much younger majus, Teju. What set Origon aside as a memorable character was his constant attitude. While those are not usually traits we like to see in people, had Origon been passive, or less confident, the story wouldn’t have been compelling.
I only had one gripe with the entire book. There was a single character that just hit all the TV/movie villain stereotypes. That’s not to say the character made the book bad or ruined the story, I was just hoping for a little more depth on that one character to match the depth on the rest of the book.
I’m giving this a 5 star rating because minus that one thing, this is a well edited, well formed book.
I’m a big fan of worldbuilding, and I thought the world of these stories was pretty interesting. I don’t read a lot of science fantasy, so I’m always fascinated by secondary worlds that have both magic and a modern-ish level of technology (I guess urban fantasy does that too, but that ends up being too close to our world, so I don’t find it as interesting.) The Dissolutionverse is a set of ten planets inhabited by different sentient species that are linked together by magical portals. Among other things, the maji are the only people capable of creating these portals, so they’re integral to economy and trade.
The first story, Last Delivery, follows a group of ragtag merchants who accept a particularly shady assignment out of desperation. Once they figure out what they’re dealing with, they have to figure out what (if anything) they want to do about it. I enjoyed this story, the crew of the trading vessel (I don’t think I can call it a spaceship since it doesn’t actually fly) was well fleshed out, and I would read more of their adventures gladly. It isn’t just a simple adventure story either, it ends up tying into the politics of the world, and it gives the protagonist, Prot (I couldn’t help but imagine him as Kevin Spacey in K-PAX because of his name) a solid growth arc as well.
The second story, The First Majus in Space, is about the first known attempt to launch people into space the traditional way. We find out more about the magic system in this story because the spaceship is designed to require a maji’s power to fuel it. When the launch goes wrong and the original majus assigned to the ship is injured, veteran majus Origon Cyrysi must replace him at the last minute. Nothing goes according to plan during the mission, though, and it reveals deeper forces working against the maji. I liked this story too, I liked learning more about the larger world and how the maji fit into things. Origon is somewhat of a curmudgeon, but a likeable one. My main frustration with this story was that it seemed like setup for a larger story, so it didn’t feel as complete as Last Delivery, there are a couple of unanswered questions at the end. Also, the antagonists’ plot didn’t make as much sense, I feel like it was a little bit too convoluted and there were too many variables for it to succeed.
Overall, I’d recommend this book, especially if you’re looking for something that feels like old school sci-fi but is still modern. The author is also working on a novel set in this universe, which I think will be great since it will have the room to explore the world and politics more.