by James V. Viscosi
4 stars - delightful and engrossing
ALR Green - some monster animals and a cranky cat thing
Ravels concludes the adventures of Mercy and Bernard. Two teenagers, swept into the magical world of a video game in the book Shards.
As the Ravels opens, there is trouble brewing in the land of adventure. Fierce storms are targeting cities and individuals, wiping them from the face of the Earth. Bernard is trapped in some sort of underground habitat of an unknown menace, along with a couple of other escapees from the line of doom. Meanwhile, Mercy is facing reanimated statues that are determined to seal her in a stone coffin. Uh oh.
The story progresses from one adventure to the next as Bernard, Mercy, and a ragtag crew try to discover the cause of disruption in the world and bring things back into line.
Not easy for this reviewer to tell much more without inserting spoilers. Let's just say, there are monsters, events of nature, magic, elves, a dwarf, other odd humanoid creatures, and plenty of puzzles to solve.
So let's do good news / bad news.
- The characters. Magnificent. Mr. Viscosi treats his readers with multi-faceted, flawed characters at every turn. At times heroic, but mostly just trying to get things done. You might not like all the characters, but you certainly get to know them, their motivations, their quirks.
- The scenes. Rich and evocative. I could see every setting. The scenes drew me in to the world of the book completely. Lush descriptions.
- The language. Mr. Viscosi has a rich vocabulary and isn't afraid to use it. Plus there are delightful utterances scattered throughout. " 'Madness, but no more than I should expect from you three, I suppose, let alone from you.' This last was directed at Cynidece, a hooligan so dire she required separate denunciation." Delightful!
- The science, what there is of it, is plausible and described in technical terms. Keep up or don't, but things aren't dumbed down.
- Surprises. Yup, several big surprises for this reader, but they never felt contrived.
- The format of the book. You might not think it's a big deal, but the pinched margins, parsimonious white space, and bulky paragraphs often left this reader feeling a bit claustrophobic.
- Not enough "previously on." Having taken a break of several months between the first book and the second, I was lost at times during the first 100 pages.
- The names. I gave up trying to pronounce the names of the characters. Kaderleh, Kihantroh, Cynidece, whatever. I just made some sounds in my head for each character.
- Not enough dwarfs. Surely the dwarfs merited best supporting character awards in the first book, but with only one rather mild mannered dwarf in this volume, I felt a bit cheated.
Overall, big thumbs up. The prose, the world, enveloped me completely. If you want to get lost in a story, The Strings Duology of Shards and Ravels is the way to go.