The Edge of the World by Kevin J Anderson

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The Edge of the World by Kevin J Anderson

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Annette Gisby
Reviewed by Annette Gisby
Summary: Excellent world building if a little bit heavy on exposition at times. Good first foray into fantasy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 592 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1841496634

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Kevin J. Anderson is perhaps better known for his Science Fiction books, such as continuations to the Dune Saga and numerous X-Files and Star Trek books. Having only ever read his X-Files books, I was unsure how I would like a fantasy book by someone who was so ingrained in my mind as a Science Fiction author. I needn't have worried, his first foray into the fantasy genre is a good start.

Epic in scope and execution, The Edge of the World tells the story of three main factions of people who inhabit this fantasy land: the Aidenists who live to the north of the map, Tierra, and follow the precepts of Aidan, one of the sons of Ondun, their God/Creator; the Urecai who live to the south of the map, Uraba, and follow the precepts of Urec, Aiden's brother. Then we have a third faction, the Saedran, who are the map-makers and chartsmen of the world and guard their knowledge as jealously as a rich man might hoard his gold and jewels. They have joined neither sect and as you read the book you realise it is knowledge that seems to be their religion.

The Aidenists and the Urecai have been enemies for centuries, both religiously and politically but the Tierran King Korastine and the Sholdan Shah, Imir, of Uraba sign an edict that will hopefully bring peace between their two nations. While in the holy city of Ishalem for the peacemaking, an accident leaves both of them stunned and ready for all out war between them. Both nations decide to set out on quest to explore the unchartered reaches of the maps, both of them hoping to find new territories and perhaps even new weapons to annihilate each other.

I really enjoyed this book, but if there was one thing that could have been improved, it was the many point of view changes. Nearly every chapter it's a different POV from the previous one and just when you were getting interested in that character or what was happening to them, the next chapter goes onto someone else. Three or four chapters from one POV then a change would have been much better. It was so difficult to get to know the characters this way when there were so many. And I did want to get to know them better: Cristo, a sailor setting out on the exploratory ship The Luminara; his wife Adra who was left behind; the young heir apparent to Uraba, who suffers tragedy but hardens his heart; the young princess of Tierra, Anjine; Aldo, a young Saedran scholar who wants to become a famous map-maker like his father; Hannes a prester of Aiden who is sent to spy on the Urecai.

The book spans quite a few years so you get to watch some of the characters grow from children to adults and the adults grow older, although not necessarily wiser. It was good to be able to follow them like this, rather than just focus on one year say.

Unlike a lot of other fantasy novels, The Edge of the World doesn't rely heavily on magic and mysticism to propel the plot, but not that it's a bad thing, it's just different. Fantasy fans who are expecting lots of sword and sorcery might be a bit disappointed though. Although a fairly long book, it reads quite quickly; Mr. Anderson doesn't bog the reader down with lots of extraneous description - there is just enough to tell you what is going on. He doesn't need ten pages to describe one room when two sentences will do. The writing is fairly action based and quite fast moving. There are lots of plot points that need to be resolved in the next books, so you'll need to read the whole trilogy to find out how it all pans out.

There's excellent world building, if a little too heavy on exposition sometimes. The range and depth of characters is great and although I have complained about the quick POV changes, it's good that we get different points of view from each nation and see how they see and react to the differences between each other. We get to see both sides of the conflict, which is sometimes lacking in books, not just fantasy ones.

The book comes across as a fantasy tale crossed with adventure books of the Age of Sail, as ships and exploring do play a major part. The fantasy element is fairly light so people who have read and enjoyed books such as Mutiny on the Bounty by John Boyne and The Raft by Arabella Edge will probably enjoy this too, even if they don't normally go for fantasy books.

Thanks to the publishers for sending a copy to Bookbag for review.

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