The only reason I don’t often recommend books is that I rarely know what to say about them. Reviewing can be something of an art, and I learnt mine on FanFiction.Net aeons ago (and emphatically not under my current name), where reviews are primarily for the benefit of the story’s author, rather than another reader. What do I tell other people like me about a book, other than “Hey, you might like this”?
But I have quite a few really good books, having had plenty of time to build up my collection, and I really would like to share them with others. Recently I re-read one of my favourites, having just got it back from the friend I lent it to. This book gave one of my favourite RPG characters her name: Captain Kaylen Myrilesse — but even if I was permitted to talk about her, which I sadly am not, that would be entirely too much of a digression.
Glenda Noramly / Glenda Larke
The world is coming apart. But that’s normal: it has been for countless generations. Eight islands of stability are all that remain of the half-mythical country of Malinawar, and beyond their borders, chaos stretches: a world half unmade, the Unstable. Ever-changing, never entirely the same from day to day, the Unstable is a place in flux. Across it run ley lines, dangerous ribbons of pure power unleashed from the world in its destruction. The ley-lit can see them, sense them, perhaps even command them — the ley-unlit can only be tainted by them, transformed into strange and twisted half-humans, but still with the minds of the people they were before.
Keris Kaylen is the daughter of Master Mapmaker Piers Kaylen, whose life is dedicated to mapping and remapping the ever-shifting Unstable. In secret she draws her father’s maps, bound from ever following in his footsteps by the stifling, unchanging Rule that is humanity’s best attempt to maintain order and stability amidst the ever-encroaching chaos. When her father is slain by a Minion of the Unmaker and his effects returned to his family, she discovers the reason for his death: he had come into possession of an artefact beyond price, a map that could change the world.
The broken lands of Malinawar are sketched for us with a light, deft touch that enables the mind’s eye to colour between the lines, sacrificing neither detail nor pace. Even minor characters typically escape two-dimensionality, with their own lives and desires hinted at beyond the necessarily limited confines of their appearance in Keris’ story, and the wider world of the Eight Stabilities continues to move along its orderly track in between her sightings of it. Malinawar’s history is shrouded in chaos, yet the curtains of the past shift just enough to gain glimpses of it here and there, and to wonder.
Havenstar has long been one of my favourite books, and I absolutely recommend reading it if you can get your hands on a copy. It seems to mostly be out of print, but Amazon (of course…) are still selling it (albeit at a high price), though the author has since changed her pen name to Glenda Larke and I prefer the cover of my original copy. (Both links go to Amazon; the second is the listings for the old version, which can be extremely cheap used but runs the risk of, well, being a used book.)
And I’ve now discovered that she’s written a lot of other books since then… *vanishes into a book hole*