Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review: Stained Glass Monsters

When a motionless woman dressed in white appears in the village of Falk, Kendall Stockton has no inkling that the strange apparition will soon leave her homeless, and tangled in the affairs of mages and monsters. For the white figure is the first sign of a spell which will shatter cities, and make the caster as powerful as the gods.

Saved by a stranger who claims her goal is to stop the woman, Kendall is torn between admiring the mage Rennyn Claire's strength, and doubting her methods. What is Rennyn willing to do to win? Do the best of intentions justify pragmatic sacrifice, or is Rennyn Claire no better than the monster she is trying to stop?

Its to be expected that I would enjoy this, all of Höst's books have been greatly enjoyed by me.  This is however the one I've put off reading because at first I wasn't certain about it.  I'm really uncertain why, I bought it (Kindle and paperback edition), I happily displayed it and told folks about it when I would mention Höst's works to them.  I just somehow didn't get around to reading it yet.

Then I got sick and was laid up in bed unable to move more then a few feet and this just happened to be my bed stand (I had recently lent it out and had it returned to me). 

Those familiar with Höst's works (Champion of the Rose or the Medair duology mainly) will recognize some of the patterns here.  Pre-ordained event, things spiral out of control due to unforeseen variables, and then clever planning (with a bit of contingency planning as well) wins the day with a layer of bittersweet consequence.  This is of course much MORE than that--it doesn't describe Ren's fractured morality or Kendall's stubborn need for independence or the Kellian's complicated history making a mush of their present circumstances--but the bare bones run down to that I think.

Ren has moved herself up on my list of Höst's characters by simply being everything she says she is and not giving an inch to anyone who says otherwise.  Very few people seem to understand what exactly Ren is doing or giving up.  Faille understood, maybe because his people (the Kellian, golem constructs of magic made by the Black Queen 300 years ago to be her brute force) are stuck in a similar position.  Ren could, and did do, everything in her power to keep the Grand Summoning from occurring, but she's tainted by her ancestry.

Kendall is more or less an after thought at first.  Used by the Sentene to track Ren, then shuffled off to a school of mages too far advanced for her untutored self, before finally she's tossed about understanding way more then anyone gives her credit for (initially).  The inclusion of things from her point of view does a lot to explain everything that Ren doesn't care about (or can't think about).  We see more of the politics, hear more from the outsider observations about how the ordinary people see things.

As Kendall begins to understand what's going on, the reader can see the larger picture and understand a lot of what Ren isn't saying and Kendall can't know.

I would have liked to spend more time with the Kellians.  We see basically three and those are the three we learn the most about.  Sukata is passionate about her magical studies, her mother Captain Illuma and then Faille, who interestingly apparently was a topic of sympathy from his fellows from almost as soon as Ren appeared (though how he knew is beyond me).  Over the course of the novel both Kendall and Ren observe ways to understand the feelings of the Kellians, but by in large they are much more shrouded in mystery.

Things move quickly in the book and at this I come to sticking point.  I'm not entirely sure how much time passed from the first page to the last, though at least a month went past based on something Seb (Ren's younger brother) said.  That being the case, Ren's interest in Faille seemed to just suddenly appear.  Not like insta-love (just add lust), but it was just there suddenly and I'm not sure the story supported it fully.

There shall be another book (at some point, in the future.  Höst has a lot of sequels, new books and promised books in the works (check out her page here to see) so I'm assured that something will be coming out from her soon(ish).  That said I would like to see the hunt for a character who survives and I can't name because its a spoiler.  As Ren said, if she had a life of ease she'd get bored wouldn't she?