Monday, May 5, 2008

"Amberlight" by Sylvia Kelso

Title: “Amberlight”
Sylvia Kelso
272 pages
Juno Books
Publishing Date:
November 14, 2007

“Amberlight” is a really light book as you all can see with its 272 pages and people can be deceived by its length, thinking that this is a quick read. Well I say that this book is everything but a quick read. The novel is political fantasy and a well crafted one as well, intertwining politics and customs of all types to create a complexity to the plot.

The story itself is quite simple. Upon returning from a House wedding, Telluirith, Head of Telluir house, finds a dying man on her way home. He seems to be an outlander with a severe case of memory loss, but it’s clear enough that he is a strong man with possible military background. Telluirith takes care of this man and shows him the customs and deepest secrets of Amerlight and the qherrique, also referred to as pearl-rock with mystical properties. The fact that an outlander is taken care of in one of the 13 Houses of Amberlight causes quite a stir among the community. In the process of restoring his memory, Alkhes as the outlander is named, both fall in love with each other, Amberlight is in a crisis and he escapes twice, the second time causing Amberlight to war with its neighbors and resurfacing as the enemy general. The cause and object of the war is the precious pearl-rock, which in the ultimate end explodes and destroys the city, since it can only be cut by women and tends to explode touched by men.

Sylvia Kelso is a very talented and erudite author, who utilizes some of the more overlooked, yet beautiful words in the English dictionary. I personally had a very, tough time adapting to her style and sentence structure, which continued towards the 100th page I think. From then I was quite able to follow the author’s thoughts. If anybody is looking for brain candy literature, this isn’t it. The novel itself is written through the 3rd deep POV of Telluirith and in present simple tense, which automatically transports to the action at hand. I have so far never read a novel quite like this and I am glad I did. Another aspect is the great tension between the characters as the love relationship between Telluirith and Alkhes is superbly built and opposing them as enemies puts their love to the test. A brilliant performance.

The world of Amberlight is matriarchal, totally matriarchal and it works perfectly. Women are the ones; chosen by the pearl-rock to cut them as the stone is sentient in nature, thus they rule society and can use its powers. Miss Kelso doesn’t hold back on its uses too. The pearl-rock is Amberlight’s energy source and its women use light guns, moving vehicles and ships made from this rock that gathers sun light and transforms it into energy. This fact puts the accent on the female gender. Standard men’s roles as soldiers, crafters, rulers are taken by women, while men are being pampered and have no skills whatsoever. I have never thought that such a world can be built to strike the reader as believable and logic and yet this novel proves it.

Of course this book had its issues with me, once it came to understanding the novel. The narrative of the main character Telluirith is chaotic at times, changing the point of view from 3rd to 1st in a very confusing manner for me. I would have appreciated seeing her thoughts actually marked as thoughts and separated from her internals. Due to this narrative issue and the heavy style - which at times is overwrought, especially in the beginning- the introduction of characters and the world itself become all too confusing. Dialogue was an issue at first too as the author creates expressions with their own meaning in the world itself and finding out from context what they were simply exhausted me.

In the end of the day, everything balances out and I have to say that the concept is interesting, but the execution makes comprehension a tough task. I highly recommend this for the hard core fans of political fantasy that want to experience the authentic feel of royalty and political intrigue.

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