Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Talyn : A Novel of Korre by Holly Lisle

I've come to count on Holly Lisle over the years for a good, easy read. I'm a slow reader at the best of times and so it's rare to find an author who feeds my lust for a complex culture without bogging me down with complex writing. Holly has consistently managed that for me, whether writing in her own worlds or shared ones.

I thought I knew what to expect from Holly, and was happy with it. I was wrong. Talyn goes well beyond what I've come to expect and is even better. Not only does Holly's skilled world building have a place, but also the cultures she's put together are even more tangled and complex than usual while at the same time completely internally consistent. Most books have a single big gimmie that makes the whole thing work. Talyn never asked that of me. I could see how every piece came together based on a rich, dynamic history only hinted at in the book. I can't think of a single thing that I had to accept on faith without foundation and the "big unlikelies" were only that long enough for the characters to discover how wrong they'd been in assuming the easy path.

I read an account from the editor about how Talyn just made her drop everything and say "wow." Now I know why. The characters suffer geographically, culturally and in every other way possible. Nothing is quite what they, or the reader, suspects but when the truth of it comes out, it's stunning.

Basically, I can't say enough in praise of this book. The only bad thing I have to say about Talyn is that it's over :(. I hate when a book makes me want to see the end so much and at the same time I want to drag out each page so I'll never reach it. Talyn did that to me and I couldn't put it down, put it away or anything. It started with extending my short reading breaks for just one more page and worked its way up to stealing the nap that I really need because I'm sick.

Oh, and one writerly comment. Holly does a rather strange thing that took me all of...maybe 30 pages to get used to? Talyn is a first person narrator. The whole book is not told from her perspective and she's the only first person narrator in the book. The odd thing is that her thoughts within the text (unmarked by italics or quotes or anything) are in present tense while the narration is in past tense. In the very beginning, this threw me, not enough to stop me from reading, but enough so I actively noticed it. Then, I just stopped noticing. Did it make her involvement in the story deeper? I'm not sure. But, it was no longer a distraction and Talyn was very much present when she controlled the narrative.

Anyway, if you can, if you like cultural fantasy, if you like anything with a cultural bent, read Talyn. I'd be stunned to find that you didn't enjoy it :).


Mama Rose said...

I've been saying since I read it that it's the best book I've read all year. I have read some really wonderful books, so that's saying a lot. :)


Nienke Hinton said...

One of my favorite reads too. I didn't even notice the difference in tense!