Saturday, October 27, 2007
Skewed Throne - Book Review
I just finished reading Joshua Palmatier's debut novel, the third of which, the Vacant Throne, comes out in January.
Varis, the main character, is a street urchin, mistrustful, wary and fast. As the novel progresses, she develops another skill, assassination. But unlike other books where theft and killing are the protagonists occupation, she takes no pleasure in her skill. (I'm thinking here specifically of Jimmy the Hand, who didn't like being a thief but took great pride in being a great thief.)
At first I thought it strange that we see so much emotion from her. Whenever she kills someone in self-defense she breaks down and sobs. Later on though, I realized what the author was doing. Normally, by the end of the book, with what she'd turned into, I would have found my sympathy waning, might have put the book down being no longer able to empathize with the main character (if I don't care what happens to the main character, why keep reading? For this reason I was never able to finish book one of Stephen Donaldson's White Gold Wielder series, from about page 60 I wanted him to fail the quest. Since logic dictated that he wouldn't I had no desire to read on. I had no sympathy for the character's plight and only disgust for his choices). The same might have held true for Varis except for that gleam of humanity that her life as an assassin can't diminish. She sobs. She has a conscience and continually sees the faces of the people she has killed.
Now that's not to say that a conscienceless protagonist isn't fun at times. I love the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay. But the direction of those books is entirely different. They're designed to show, in a darkly humourous way, what humanity is capable of. You laugh as you read the books and feel slightly chilled at the end. The horror though, comes from the thought of meeting someone in real life like that, where the situation would be anything but funny.
But back to Varis. The end of the book works. You look over the course of her life and see both how she ends up there and how that seems right for her. A masterful story with amazing character development.
You can check out Joshua's website here.