Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Review: The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers

Following on the footsteps of SQT’s post yesterday about Zombies in literature, today I’ll be reviewing The Horns of Ruin – a perhaps not so typical Steampunk adventure that includes swordplay, jetpacks, mystical powers… and undead enemies. To be honest, I’m not expert on Steampunk – what little I know about this sub-genre of fantasy and science fiction is that it’s a blend of Victorian era technology (often “steam” based like locomotives) and then advancing that technology further without moving down the path our own history carved. In this case, the showpiece of the book is Ash, a gothic city structure built on the ruins of two prior cities. This city is almost a character in its own right, from subterranean passages and underground lakes and streams running beneath, to the libraries where slaves toil in unending servitude for the past sins of the god they worshiped, as well as the towering building spires and cathedrals built to worship those same gods. Eva Forge is the last Paladin of a dead god named Morgan. Morgan had two brothers, Amon and Alexander – but it was Amon who betrayed him and now they are both dead, with only Alexander left to rule. Eva is asked to accompany her master, Fratriarch Barnabas, the leader of the Cult of Morgan, on a mission heading deep into the parts of the city where they are at their most vulnerable to retrieve a librarian slave named Cassandra of the Order of Amon. All seems in order at first, but then the Fratriarch is abducted when the group is attacked by a group of the undead wearing jetpacks. Now Eva must work together with a member of the group she blames for the death of her god, as well as an earnest but perhaps too law-abiding officer in the employ of Alexander, named Owen, in retrieving Barnabas and discovering the mystery behind his need to employ Cassandra in the first place. I have mixed feelings on The Horns of Ruin, not in the sense that I disliked the book – in fact I enjoyed reading it - more that I just didn’t walk away from it with a strong feeling one way or the other. As I’ve mentioned, the city of Ash itself – and the world constructed by Tim Akers - is one that was very compelling. The magic system uses chanting and specific phrasing in order for users to wield it, which I felt was pretty unique. I’m always a fan of monorails, and there’s a neat connection between them and the prior groups who have inhabited the city, as well as the magic they all tap into. There are some fantastic “set pieces” where battles take place which provide just the right amount of background material to make them memorable, and the writing makes those fights enjoyable to read. Yet the characters weren’t all that compelling to me. Eva is a gruff, no nonsense warrior who doesn’t treat anyone nicely – even the people who are trying to work with her to solve the mystery. Worse, even after abusing them, these other characters still seem devoted to her – when it makes no sense to me that they should feel this way. I’m not a big fan of the first person narrative (in this case told from Eva’s perspective), which may be part of my problem – I don’t have any insight into the thoughts of these other characters, and so I can’t see why they might have their own reasons for working with Eva. Beyond Eva, Owen and Cassandra, most of the other characters are relegated to minor roles – putting in brief appearances and not really taking on a life of their own. I would have liked a more compelling villain, or to have had stronger feelings about the other members of Eva’s order – instead I just felt like they were a part of the scenery. My only other issue would be with the ending of the book, where it seems as though the author wanted to leave things open for a sequel and so not everything is wrapped up as I thought it could be. While it’s a complete novel in that the mysteries and questions asked at the beginning are solved by the end – I didn’t have the sense of satisfaction upon finishing the book that I would have liked. I’d most certainly recommend reading The Horns of Ruin for the fantastic setting that Tim Akers has created, especially for a Steampunk fan; I’m just not sure that I’m compelled enough to read more in this series should another book be forthcoming.


Charles Gramlich said...

Love that title very much. I have a story called the horns of the air, and another called the ruins of memory.

BryStearns said...

I hate it when people end books just to set up an un-needed sequel. I also hate it when movies do that. Or really anything at all.

Wilson said...

I hate it also when people don't complete their

Wilson said...

Ok just kiddin ><

I liked the book review. Interestingly enough, the book cover really made me want to read the book. A girl in armor with zoomy planes in the background?

Where's the checkout line please.

Sullivan McPig said...

Ok, I'm really shallow, but I'm in love with that cover!!
The story sounds like it might be cool too though.