Abendau's Heir by Jo Zebedee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Abendau's Heir (The Inheritance Trilogy Book 1) by Jo Zebedee
This is one of those novels that I wanted to really like maybe even love. It has that potential. And yet, in my enthusiasm I kept stumbling through the first chapters with this odd feeling of disconnect that confused me. I had to read through a second time to try to figure out what my problem was. Style choices the author made might have resonated with me in a rather unusual way. I would have to definitely recommend that others not take my judgment without trying to first read the novel. And then, if you do find some trouble as I did, you might want to tough it through; because eventually you'll get used to way the author writes and you can better appreciate the story.
This is a dark story, which was a bit unexpected: to me. It's a tragedy wrapped in a dark world. It reminded me of a discussion recently about GrimDark being a genre and someone’s argument that it was meant to be an ironic or satirical comment about certain over the top writing. I should qualify that I think it's a valid and respectable label these days; so when I say that this novel is GrimDark I mean it in a good sense. Jo Zebedee's world and universe is a dark universe that is lorded over by an evil Empress. But more so than that it's an unforgiving universe where every action has its consequence and, though some may have potential for good outcomes, the reader quickly discovers it pays to keep those consequences in mind; because they will show up like a bad penny.
If you read the prologue carefully you'll have everything you need to know. Ealyn is a seer and the Empress is evil. The Empress forces Ealyn to look at the prism and see her future, but not just her future; his too. The Empress has powers to delve into other minds so she too can see what he sees. Ealyn resists; because he knows there are great consequences to what he does when he Seers. But what he sees is that somehow the Empress is now pregnant with his and her children and that between their two powers she means to create ultimate power for herself. He sees the result in the cold adult faces of their powerful children and is horrified. After the Empress leaves his cell Ealyn is once more drawn into a vision; but this time he sees himself free and then he sees his children now happy and free. Energized with that vision he throws caution to the wind and despite knowing there will be everlasting consequences he's determined to find out how to make the second vision a reality and will seek the answer through his visions.
The first chapter brings us eight years in advance to a point where Ealyn and his children, Kare and Karia, are in a tenuous life aboard a spaceship trying to get by while the Empress pursues them and the rebels deny them full access to the rebel base because of the danger the Empress and her relentless pursuit represents. Ealyn is stuck between a rock and a hard place; because of all the time he spent doing visions he can see that some horrible future is overtaking him no matter which direction he goes and soon Kare will have to be trained to control any tendency to Seer. In a feeble effort to train Kare, Ealyn goes too far and is sucked into a trance like state to the worst of futures. The only hope for help to bring him out of this is to go to the rebel base where they will eventually be ejected again. All through these chapters it is for some reason very difficult for me as a reader to get close to the characters; but that turns out to be a blessing since people are about to die.
Eventually Kare will be left alone with relatives-more people who would rather not have the object of the Empress search in their home. Again we fast forward ten years and from here this becomes the story of Kare's tragic life in his efforts to elude his mother and stay alive. Kare doesn't get many breaks and every decision he makes has consequence, some of those not apparent to him until after he makes them. This does keep the tension high in the story and in some part helps the reader understand the final outcome to some degree. But let's get back to figuring out which part of my personal preference interferes with the style choices in this novel.
When I looked back through the second read I realized that the author loves long sentences and has a fixation on commas. This is not all bad. I love long sentences and enjoy the ones that are properly punctuated. The problem comes in some of the medium size sentences that almost appear to be long sentences that were shortened to vary the beat. The problem with that is that there is that beat or rhythm of the sentences in a paragraph and the more internal beat of the individual sentences that you start punctuating with commas and semicolons.
In the first paragraph this sentence…-
His captors knew him well enough to use subtle things to torment him: the sound of water, so blessed on the hot, dry, Abendau; the prism on its thin chain catching sunlight from a small window and sending rainbows darting; the slow build of pain in muscles held firm, a pain that went deep, full of despair.
Zebedee, Jo (2015-03-29). Abendau's Heir (The Inheritance Trilogy Book 1) (Kindle Locations 29-31). Tickety Boo Press Ltd. Kindle Edition.
…Begins to highlight both the skill of the author and the beginning of a pattern that threw me off just a bit.
This part--so blessed on the hot, dry, Abendau;--creates a distinct staccato effect separating out Hot- Dry - Abendau; giving it an intended beat and alone it seems quite harmless, but quickly it shows up again and again until it's like a pattern. Often there are separate sentences engineered into incomplete thoughts that get chained by commas while ignoring conjunctions to create the same distinct separation that might just as well have been short separate sentences; though those would once again interfere with the rhythm.
For me though this created a second problem because the narrator often was this shifting close third POV that unfortunately always has the same quirk and that tended to overshadow the character development and I had difficulty separating the characters from one another. The irony is that they are distinct characters once I get past that peculiar distracting consistent beat. The dropping or ignoring of conjunctions to create the beat creates a distinct narrator voice that becomes hard to separate from the close third POV.
The writing is good and tight and sometimes even a bit too sparse. There are only about a handful of sentences where I felt words were missing and they usually were stuck within these bits of beats as though necessary verbs were thrown away (I have no idea if that was by accident or on purpose.)
The plot is tight and as I have said quite dark.
If as a reader you like stories that balance upbeat with the down then this might not be for you. Not to say there are no upbeat moments, just that those usually follow major decisions and then there seems to be a need to show the consequences. If you are a reader who likes happy endings then I would stay away from this one. This is a tragedy in many ways and perhaps because the author intends to have more novels in this series she creates several tragedies at the end that drag the whole into a downward spiral. And those follow the major tragedy of the story pertaining to the primary protagonist.
All of the tragedies at the end, after the primary (concerning Kare), seem either to be part of a summation of what happened afterwards and the consequences; or they act as a prelude to the next story. I really find it ambiguous in that respect and probably could have stopped at the primary tragic choice without the extra added summations after; which could have been left to my imagination and for the next story. As a whole it just made the story that much darker.
This is okay SSF light on the science heavy fantasy and great for those who love GrimDark tragedies. And if you love novels that delve thickly into the consequences of the character's actions this is going to be a treat.
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