RogerBW's Blog

Wheel of the Infinite, Martha Wells 22 September 2023

2000 fantasy. Maskelle was a high-ranking priest, but did something bad and has been living in exile. Now she's called back to Duvalpore, because something strange is going on with the Hundred-Year Rite that will reinforce the world…

This is splendidly non-Eurocentric fantasy. Its world is not ours anyway, but the inspiration for it quickly becomes clear as the Khmer Empire and in particular the temples of Angkor. I think what works particularly well for me is that, from the outsider's perspective of Rian (a foreign swordsman whom Maskelle rescues), this clearly isn't the sort of religion you understand in a hurry, even when someone tries to explain it to you. At the same time, Maskelle's challenges make sense to the reader even if we don't grasp in fine detail what she's doing.

The nun Tiar was looking past him toward the archway into the tower. Now she said, "Do you know if there's any progress? Everyone is very worried and no one will tell us anything."

If such a thing had happened in Markand, there would have been panic and bloodshed in the corridors of the Hold. Here, everyone was "very worried."

There's a certain feeling of Paladin of Souls here, three years before that book would come out – a god-touched older woman as the protagonist, who has had it with all this crap and gets straight to the point, because manners are all very well until they stand in the way of what needs to be done.

And there's a troupe of travelling players (and not just a rerun of the Commedia dell'Arte from The Element of Fire), and a little light romance, and a haunted puppet, and the end of the world.

Perhaps the book starts a little slowly. But it's a lush setting and I enjoyed wallowing in it even before the pace picked up.

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