October 16, 2009

Curse of the Tahiera Review

Wendy Gillissen’s Curse of the Tahiera makes a bold attempt to change the familiar high fantasy dynamic of good and evil and substitute a personal ethical arc that makes each character’s decisions the equivalent of a lifetime (or longer) quest for balance. These personal arcs give the novel a unique structure in which the main character is more quest object than protagonist. (Although I understand that the book is subtitled “A Spiritual Journey,” this review deals only with the story as a fantasy story and doesn’t intend to touch on other aspects.)

The plot centers on Rom, a Gypsy-like young man who has a difficult heritage that has kept him isolated until he encounters Yldich, a healer with magical abilities who has been looking for him in order to bring him to the North to prevent the awakening of a dark power. Rom’s heritage is the chief source of conflict for the first part of the novel, as he physically resembles a race hated by both the older tribes inhabiting the land and the newer rulers, igniting each encounter with mistrust and fear. Mystery is introduced by way of questions regarding Rom's parentage, since this race seems to have died out long before the start of this story. Rom's ongoing acceptance of these judgments by others gives him his arc—that of personal growth. Unfortunately, Rom didn't develop any self-motivation toward this goal and he often acted out of “inspiration” or was tricked into fighting or revealing information about himself. This became less and less welcome as the story progressed.

While Rom appears to be the main character, I felt that it was Yldich’s story—he is the character whom we’re given more insight into, he is the character with a mission, and he is the one who drives Rom onward. I found myself wanting to see the story from Yldich’s point of view rather than Rom's.

While the story could be entertaining, the novel suffers from editorial challenges that may distract the reader, such as grammar errors (the spelling is British and European grammar may have rules unfamiliar to this reviewer), detail-encrusted pacing that sometimes leads to odd jumps in narrative, and sentences padded with inessentials that draw out the length of the narrative without adding either a compelling rhythm or needed information to the plot. These challenges increase toward the end of the novel and include sometimes confusing point of view shifts and non-standard word choices.

There are moments in the story that caught me and propelled me forward and the foreshadowing and scenes were well-conceived. Although the unique structure hampered my reading, it did allow for insights into the nature of cruelty and forgiveness that held my interest after I had finished the story. Ms. Gillissen has a wonderful understanding of fantasy tropes and I believe she has a gift for storytelling that will continue to grow through future novels in this series.

SFT would like to thank Wendy Gillissen for providing a copy of her novel for the purposes of review.


Wendy Gillissen said...

Dear Chrissa,
thank you for your elaborate review of Curse of the Tahiéra.
I would like to mention that, since the book was sent to you for review, editorial changes have been made to accommodate readers in the US:)
Thanks again and happy reading,
Wendy Gillissen

C. Sandlin said...

Thanks for letting me know. One day I will be proficient in more than one version of English. :) When will the sequel to this book be out?

Wendy Gillissen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy Gillissen said...

PS I would like to take a moment to speak on Rom, my main character’s behalf:)
In this story of his coming of age he transforms from an anxious boy who’s initial interest is only in survival, to a young man forced by circumstance (or fate) to face his fears. In the course of his journey he fights Feyir, saves Eald, fights in Woodbury, and when he realizes the survival of the Einache and Tzanatzi people depends on him, he even goes to the lengths of travelling to the Underworld, fighting on Gardeth Battlefield and defeating the Tahiéra;)

As a reader with a preference for Yldich however, you might be pleased to know he makes a full come-back in ‘The Search for Tzanáta’ which is scheduled for release in January 2010!