(cover image from Amazon.com)
Over the years, I've learned to trust my favorite authors. Even when a book doesn't sound appealing, I've usually been rewarded by giving it a try when it's from one of my very favorite authors - Lois McMaster Bujold, C. J. Cherryh, Connie Willis,... and, yes, Julie E. Czerneda.
So I didn't look very closely at the details of this one when I ordered it. Yes, A Turn of Light is fantasy, and I'd prefer science fiction. (Czerneda mainly writes space opera.) But I enjoy fantasy, too, so that wasn't a problem.
And this was a paperback, so I didn't have to make that decision. (Admittedly, it's a trade paperback, so almost as expensive as hardcover.) But I ordered it without paying much attention, because I was willing to give a favorite author the benefit of the doubt.
So I was shocked when it actually arrived to find that it's 854 pages long! The book is massive! Now, yes, her books have been getting longer and longer, but nothing previously like this.
And when I opened the front cover, I saw "Night's Edge: Book One." What? 854 pages and it's not even the complete story? (I would have been even more surprised had I realized then that the entire book is set in a tiny little village.)
First, let me assure you that, yes, this is a complete story. I assume that there will be sequels, but this is still a standalone book. You don't have to worry about that. And it held my attention, too.
As I say, the whole book is set in a very small village, and when I started reading, it seemed a bit... overly-descriptive - even leisurely. That might be accurate - and one reason why the book is so long - but I was never bored. The book held my attention throughout. But I did wonder a bit, at the start.
The fact is, this village is so small that everyone in it is important to the story. And the village itself is important. It's a magical place (in more ways than one).
The characters are really... nice. They're almost all very appealing, even those you don't expect to like. And if you want romance, well, the whole thing is filled with romance. But no sex. This is a fantasy novel, not a romance novel, and it's very definitely fantasy romance.
Oddly enough, for an old bachelor like me, I like that kind of thing. I like character-based fiction, and romance is frequently an important part of that. And I want to like the characters in a book, because I need to care about them, and innocent romance seems to help in that respect, too. (Personally, I never thought that text was a very good medium for pornography. Written sex never seems very realistic to me.)
At any rate, if you don't like romance, don't read this book. There's lots and lots of romance, and it all seems very obvious where it's going, right from the start. On the other hand, I had absolutely no idea where the fantasy was going, not until almost the very end.
It was kind of weird. Yes, there's a very unusual village, a very magical place, and the heroine who's desperate to travel the world isn't allowed to leave. So she doesn't. But,... what's going to happen? I didn't have a clue. I mean, I didn't know where the fantasy plot was going. The romance, as I say, seemed obvious from the start (all of the different pairings).
But this is a fantasy, and it was going somewhere. Don't get me wrong, it's not slow. Or, rather, it's slow, but it's entertaining enough that it doesn't seem slow. A Turn of Light certainly held my attention. Indeed, I had trouble putting the book down. (And that's a necessity, since 854 pages is a lot to read in one sitting!)
I'm afraid I can't describe it any better than this. It's a magical place with appealing characters and lots of romance,... and that describes most of the book. The plot advances, but it's never very clear where it's going (or it wasn't to me, at least). It wasn't even clear that it was advancing.
I liked that. Admittedly, when you get to the end, the result is not a surprise. But the fact that there was an end at all was surprising, at least a bit, since the book didn't really seem to be heading anywhere. (Of course, when I saw that "Book One," I was afraid there wouldn't be an end, not to this volume, at least.)
Sorry. I suspect that this is going to be a useless review to anyone else, but I really don't know what to say. I enjoyed it, and if you like long, romance-filled fantasy, you probably will, too. But if you want action, forget it. There is a fantasy plot here, but it doesn't get there quickly.
There's humor, and a slowly unfolding puzzle, and really nice characters, with lots and lots of romance. I suspect that some readers would absolutely hate it. But not me. I'll definitely buy the next one, probably without looking at the details. :)
Note: My other book reviews are here.