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The Whitefire Crossing: The Shattered Sigil, Book One Paperback – August 1, 2011
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"Schafer has built a world of magic and politics that readers will want to revisit over and over...a damn fine read--don't miss it." --Teresa Frohock, author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale
"A tense adventure fantasy, with magic, intrigue, and engaging characters in a desperate race to cross a deadly mountain range...an exciting original read." --Martha Wells, author of The Cloud Roads
"Fully developed characters. Across the board worldbuilding... Accomplished writing. Engaging storytelling... Add it all up and there's no doubt in my mind that The Whitefire Crossing is not only one of the best fantasy debuts of 2011, but it's also one of the year's best fantasy novels period..." --Robert Thompson of Fantasy Book Critic
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I'm excited to read the other books in the series.
Dev is shown right at the start as a smuggler and courier with street smarts and a bit of attitude. But he's a good soul, taking on a risky job to help release his mentor's child from bondage to a ganglord. With him as your first person narrator, you have a solid guide.
His chapters alternate with the third person viewpoint of Kiran, a highsider with a magical background who needs to escape over the mountains. His struggles to both keep his identity secret and learn the skills he needs are compelling and also make him sympathetic, even if his background makes him a bit arrogant.
What I really enjoyed about the story is how it never goes where you think. I was more than willing to go with the convoy all the way across the mountains, but events happen that disrupt that. Again and again the plot turns with revelations and deceptions and then weave back together again and again, creating new situations.
From what I read in an interview, Schafer knows well about rock climbing, mountain caravans, and gem hunting (as well as the Sierra Nevadas, which she based the setting on), but she never bogs down the story with long descriptions or goes off on tangents. The climbs are always just a page or less, and the mountains are shown as a guide would see them, with both practical routes and a love of the terrain.
There's a secondary character, Pello, who's a shadow man, or spy, on the convoy, and he sets up a great deal of tension as Dev tries to keep Kiran's secret from him, only for Pello to discover what even Dev hasn't suspected. He's a great adversary you can't help but admire, and I hope to see more of him in the next book.
There's also Cara, the head outrider, who's Dev's age and isn't ready to take any of his stunts. When the convoy is disrupted, I was worried she'd be left behind, but fortunately she returns to the story, and she soon realizes there's far more to Dev taking risks than he's let on.
It's a long novel, but like gear in a hiker's pack, everything is needed - even the few bits of history play their part, and there's no extra baggage or slowing down. The ending seems to come seventy pages from the end, but it's not the ending you thought it would be, and so there's plenty more beyond that, and it doesn't take the easy route out.
In all, a very enjoyable adventure through the mountains and beyond, with plenty of realistic characters, high stakes, surprise twists, and interesting magic.
The person is Kiran, who Dev thinks is a spoiled rich boy who has probably crossed a mage and has to leave the city and hide in mage-free Alathia. Mages are all-powerful in Ninavel and Dev knows better than to have anything at all to do with them, but Dev is desperate.
The tale starts out as a dangerous adventure of man against the elements in the inhospitable mountains, dependent upon the guides who know how to negotiate the paths and the climbs and who go ahead to spot hazards--on the trails and with the weather conditions. Dev takes Kiran along, posing as a new apprentice. But much more is going on. There are spies among the caravan, but whether they are working for mages or for Alathia or someone else is unknown. The trail and the weather seem more dangerous than usual. And what secrets does Kiran keep?
Dev is a strong main character. He is a guy who is just trying to get along in life, after a harsh childhood. And he loves the mountains, dangers and all. Kiran, also, is a fascinating character, very different from Dev. The secondary characters and bad guys are all well-drawn, none of them two-dimensional. The magic system is also intriguing, as is the world and the history that is gradually revealed.
This is the first book in a series, so while a major story arc is concluded at the end of the book, there are loose ends that remain to be tied up in future books--so be warned. I was very happy to have come across this book. It was an exciting read with many interesting elements that kept me wanting to know more. There was adventure and danger and suspense that kept the pages turning. And the story and characters were more than engaging, making me happy to know that a sequel was in the works and that I'd have more good reading adventures ahead. I would definitely recommend this to readers of fantasy who enjoy a good adventure with intrigue, and a new world to explore. This is one of the better fantasy books I've read all year. I can't wait to read the next book!
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I decided to read The Whitefire Crossing attracted by a couple of good reviews I had seen from trusted sources and the fact that...Read more