Path of Revenge (Broken Man) by Russell Kirkpatrick

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Path of Revenge (Broken Man) by Russell Kirkpatrick

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: An imposing looking book, but the pages fly past so quickly that it seems a lot shorter than it actually is – always the mark of a great story. There is also the promise of more to come, which is a welcoming prospect.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 688 Date: August 2008
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841496726

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Big things tend to scare me, as they're frequently filled with stuff you'll never need, or things that are simply there to take up space. Often with large books, you find lots of empty writing, which seems to be there more to increase the page count than to advance the plot. Kate Elliott's recent Shadow Gate was one such and, as a result, the sheer size of Path of Revenge was off putting.

As it turns out, there was nothing to worry about, as the story was immediately engaging. Locked in a tower lies the husk of what was once a man; beaten and imprisoned by an immortal. After years of thought, he has found a way to kill the immortal, but he needs certain tools to enable him to do so. These tools are scattered, one in each of the lands that make up the world and held by very different people; a fisherman, a young scholar and a Queen.

Husk, having once been a sorcerer, has managed to exert some form of mind control over others travelling with these people to keep them safe. We follow the start of their journeys from their respective homes, seeing the reasons they are encouraged to move on; one running in fear of her life, one seeking to rescue his kidnapped family and one placed on the road by an Emperor to seek a hole which threatens to engulf the world.

The pace is high right from the start, with the danger engulfing the characters being introduced very early on. Long journeys that characters undertake can often drag, but there is enough going on to keep the characters, as well as the reader, occupied. At no point did I feel that the journey was the be all and end all, as often felt the case with Lord of the Rings, as when there was no immediate threat to a character, we were treated to some of their back story, which proved as fascinating as the present.

The way the story is told heightens the tension, as it is split into sections, each one dealing with a different character. This allows for plenty of time to become involved and settled into the journey of each of them, before stealing you away to the next. Fitzpatrick manages to leave each section at a point such that you want it to continue, but are forced to wait until their story comes around again; much like the episodes in a soap opera, only far more interesting.

This does cause a minor issue with forgetting what has happened to the characters at points, which was also an issue with the works of Kate Elliott mentioned earlier, although with a much smaller cast of major characters than Elliott's work the impact was far less here. We spend so long away from the individual characters that by the time you return to their part of the story, it is difficult to remember where you left them. I found myself flicking back through the pages on a couple of occasions just to pick up the thread of events. This was most noticeable with the story of the fisherman; he has the least distance to travel, so there's less of his journey to relate and so he's the one who gets the least attention. This is just a minor concern, but it did interrupt the flow of the story and slow things down a little for me.

For the most part, however, this was the only thing that could disrupt the flow of things. I found the whole idea of trying to find a way to kill an immortal a fascinating one and from the start, I was eager to see how this may be accomplished and some of Fitzpatrick's ideas concerning immortality itself were also interesting ones. Whilst some of the other ideas aren't quite so original, such as the stone that repels magic, the idea of such a stone being naturally occurring instead of created by magicians was slightly different and that part of the story left huge scope for the rest of the trilogy.

Indeed, it is this geological aspect that provided one of the most novel touches I've seen for some time. Whilst the traditional maps of the world were present, one of them was a geological map. As well as being unusual, this certainly helped underline the part of the story about the magic stone as well as visualise the route that parts of the story may take. One of the other maps, showing what one of the characters was looking at in another part of the story was also beautifully rendered, even incorporating a similar scale to that the character could see and this was again really helpful for seeing through the character's eyes.

This was a wonderful read and, judging by the characters' locations on the map at the end, it's a trilogy with a long way yet to go. I just worry that Fitzpatrick won't be able to maintain the momentum he's built up here through another two books of this size. But that is a worry for the future; for the present, this is the perfect response to someone too quick to judge a book by the distance between the covers. There was not a word wasted and not a page that hasn't earned its place in this book and this is a path well worth travelling.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Russell Kirkpatrick's Broken Man series in chronological order

If this book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy the Percheron trilogy by Fiona McIntosh or you might like to try The Judging Eye by R Scott Bakker.

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