Goodreads: The Oracle Betrayed
Series: The Oracle Prophecies #1
Summary: The Speaker-of-the-God interprets the Oracle and relays divine messages to the people. Mirany, who also serves in the Temple, knows that the Speaker no longer hears the god and has plans to appoint her own king to rule. Joined by a drunken musician and an ambitious scribe, Mirany must find the god’s chosen successor to the throne before time runs out.
Review: The Oracle Betrayed provides a fast-paced adventure filled with mystery and just a little bit of magic. It perhaps has pretensions to being a bigger story than it is, particularly with its emphasis on the diverse cast of characters caught up in royal intrigue, but it remains an engaging story despite its failure fully to flesh out many of the personalities it introduces. Fans of Fisher and of fantasy alike will enjoy this introduction to what promises to be an exciting new world.
Though the book constantly switches perspectives, the story largely focuses on Mirany, a servant of the god newly promoted to Bearer-of-the-God. Her job largely consists of carrying the scorpions that may or may not be the physical presence of the deity her land worships. Despite this distinction, Mirany remains a shy, awkward girl who often feels homesick and cannot justify the special treatment she receives from the rest of the populace. Timid or quiet readers will immediately relate to her and appreciate the quiet strength she does not even know she possesses.
Mirany’s growth as a character truly grounds the story. While Fisher hints at unexpected depth in the rest of the characters, even the revelations about their personalities seems stereotyped. Thus, the washed-out musician has more skill to him than meets the eye; the ambitious and cold-hearted youth really cares about his family; and the stuck-up rich girl has enough pride to give her morals. Anyone who reads fantasy on a regular basis will expect these developments. As a result, the draw of the story does not lie in the characters, but in the plot.
Fighting, treachery, intrigue, and theft abound in The Oracle Betrayed. Although technically Mirany and her allies have the power of the god on their side, the god does not guarantee positive outcomes (he does, after all, choose to manifest himself as a stinging deadly scorpion). Thus, enough suspense exists to keep the narrative fresh. I was particularly pleased to note that Fisher did not unnecessarily draw out the action, either. Her Relic Master series could have condensed the contents of four books into two or three; The Oracle Betrayed stops while it is still ahead.
Since I did receive some closure from this installment, I do not know that I will hasten out to the library for book two anytime soon. Still, The Oracle Betrayed proves a solid, if somewhat familiar, fantasy read.
Goodreads: The Margrave
Series: Relic Master #4
Potential spoilers in the summary for those who have not finished the first three Relic Master books!
Summary: Galen swore an oath to kill the Margrave, the terrible evil in the Pits of Maar that controls the Watch and hunts down the Order. Raffi, however, bears the secret that the Margrave hunts him—and the knowledge threatens to destroy him even as he prepares to become a full-fledged keeper. Carys, meanwhile, has fallen once again into the hands of the Watch, but her friends suspect her capture may have been deliberate and begin to question her loyalty once more. Only the coming of the Makers can restore order to the world and stop the advance of the Unfinished Lands, but, with the band broken and suspicious, it may be too late.
Review: Fisher provides a thrilling conclusion to her quartet packed with action and intrigue. The fast pace will keep readers feverishly turning pages as they seek to learn what fates await the characters they have come to know and love. Galen, with his heavy burden and hard demeanor, but soft heart. Raffi the scholar, still unsure about his place in the world. The mysterious Sekoi. The clever Carys. Only faith keeps them pushing forward as the world crumbles to ruins around them. Readers almost cannot help but cheer the small group on.
Unfortunately, Fisher still tries to maintain ambiguity about Carys’s allegiance. Her loyalty was never really in doubt and, four books later, the plot device is more than old. Unpredictability has never proved the author’s strong point and having the characters question the order of events readers know must happen does not qualify as suspense. Mostly it makes the characters look silly. Those readers who have made it this far, however, probably are not looking for plot twists, so Fisher has no need to worry. It is the characters who have captured our hearts.
Aside from stale plot contrivances, however, the book proves engrossing. The action never flags and the mystery of the Makers looms ever in the background. Fisher has created a real and interesting world, one that readers love to explore with her. They, like the characters, have become invested in it and worry about its future. The final showdown between the Margrave and the motley crew determined to save Anara is one fans of Fisher’s will not want to miss.
Published: 2001 (2011 in the U.S.)
Series: Incarceron #1
Summary: See Krysta’s review for the summary.
Review: Incarceron is a creative book and an interesting read, but it falls just a little flat of expectations. The premise of a supposedly idyllic, sentient prison gone wrong and a world Outside that has tried to stop progress and live in the past is intriguing, but Fisher has failed to do them justice. To begin, the world-building is a little shoddy. The Outside world is a strange mix of the eighteenth century and a technology-savvy future, but the science behind this future is incredibly hazy. There are a number of references to “equipment”, scanning devices, listening devices, and so forth, but Fisher stops far short of explaining how any of these things might work or what they even look like. Readers will need to furnish a good deal of their own imagination to make all these mysterious “devices” really come to life. The description of Incarceron is much more thorough and definitely creepy, with glowing red eyes that watch Prisoners always and the ability to “fix” humans with the addition of metal body parts.
The characters of Incarceron, including Incarceron itself, are one of its strong points. They are diverse, consisting of the foolish Caspar, the scheming sorceress Queen Sia, the stern Warden of Incarceron, his intelligent daughter Claudia, the Starseer Finn, his oathbrother Keiro, the loyal girl Attia, and others. The downside is that few of the characters are truly likeable, barring Claudia’s tutor Jared. Claudia and Finn, the protagonists, are not wholly disagreeable, but they have learned they must sometimes be cruel if they wish to survive, and the attitude (if understandable in their world) will probably keep readers from wanting to become their best friends.
The characters are also not particularly philosophical, which is somewhat surprising considering half of them are Prisoners trying to escape a prison they were born in, uncertain that the world Outside is even real. Fisher does drop a few sentences to think about here and there, and they are pleasant finds, but the truth is that Incarceron neither asks nor answers many of the questions that it could. It is an interesting book, but not particularly deep. It tells a fun story, but ultimately fails to touch or speak to readers in any meaningful way.
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