- The Good: A dreamy travelogue in a world that’s not fully formed
- The Bad: Lacking in character and story development
- The Literary: Faux historical-English prose
Reynard, a young apprentice fisherman, is the only survivor of a Spanish attack of his ship. After days of drifting, an old man aboard a Spanish galleon finds and rescues Reynard, and together they follow the currents north to the island of Thule and eventually Tir Na Nog.
I love the eclectic nature of this scifi-fantasy mashup. Reynard meets all sorts of magical creatures, from the terrifying Eaters (vampires who feed on time and life) to the brave Blunters (defenders of cities who have a special connection with their brilliantly colored giant dragonflies). The Travelers, well, travel, collecting stories that they bring back to the Crafters, who make the world, and are rushing to finish it before the Sister Queens wage war against creation. Along with all these imaginative fantasy characters are the traditional giants and gods, but also Vikings and Spaniards.
But even more exciting is the premise that Reynard’s world is a work in progress, and the Crafters are creating, rearranging, experimenting, and trying to make something beautiful. It’s a unique and imaginative concept that has the potential to be used as an appealing plot device as well as a critique on the creative process.
Sadly, the story is never really all that engaging. The world is unveiled to the reader very slowly, so it’s unclear who all these creatures are and what part they play. And whereas the creatures are imaginative, the individual characters are forgettable. When a mysterious and powerful god on Tir Na Nog sets Reynard and his companions on their nebulously defined quest, Reynard himself does not understand his purpose or why everyone wants to get him to a Crafter, so as a reader you feel no urgency. The dialogue is an Elizabethan-ish English which is supports the Eurocentric (sometimes Norse, sometimes Celtic) mythology but doesn’t make for an easy reading experience.
Recommended for fans of atmospheric and challenging world-building! Thanks to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.