Julie Czerneda’s been one of my favorite authors for years. Yet I haven’t been excited by her recent books. Have my tastes changed? Has her writing? Have her editors given her too much leeway? The Gossamer Mage doesn’t answer that question, but it also doesn’t go against the trend.
Czerneda made her name in part by writing credible SF. Writing fantasy isn’t new to her, though somehow with the press of work, etc., I haven’t actually gotten around to reading her two prior fantasy books. Czerneda has imagination and skill, and, the fantastic elements of the book work. The world is interesting, fairly original, satisfyingly magical, etc.
Where the book falls through is mostly in the mechanics. We switch from character to character, but most of them start at the same place and deal with similar issues, and I often found it hard to remember which was which. In theory, the three lead characters all have clear and distinct roles, but I found their voices very similar.
There are interludes that are mean to break up the text and give us some outside perspective and worldbuilding information, but I found them both repetitive and too vague to be useful. There just wasn’t enough context overall for me to build up a clear hypothesis about what was happening and why – often key to this kind of ‘mysterious origins’ story.
The ending exacerbates the problem. It ties things up emotionally, but it doesn’t really try to explain what’s been happening or how it all came about. There are loads of hints, but they lead to … nothing in particular. I don’t think it’s because I missed subtlety and nuance; it’s because Czerneda had a chance to explain, and simply decided not to. The result is intensely dissatisfying. This is where a more demanding editor could have come into play, which is at least the second time I’ve said that recently about a Czerneda book. It’s disappointing, not least because this could have been a satisfying book – all the pieces are there. And it should have been one.
Sometime soon, I’ll go back to actually read the Night’s Edge books, and see whether, 6 years back, those turned out better.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.