A human from Earth gallivants to and fro on a distant planet, manipulating their history and society in order to fulfil his side of a contract he probably shouldn’t have signed.
Political intrigue abounds.
I liked this book, or perhaps more accurately, I enjoyed the author’s writing style once I got to the point I could understand what the hell was going on. The first quarter of the book I felt as if I was lost at sea without a life raft. The author certainly doesn’t pamper his potential readers, and it’s a race to catch up from the very first page. I feel this was intentional, to put the reader into the same scattered, disoriented mindset as the protagonist. Unfortunately, by the end of the book, our hero Deceneus ends up with much more information than we do, despite us living within his head the entire story. The tale is told in first-person, which is often a turnoff, but in this case it flowed nicely, as if someone was merely sharing a story from memory.
This is a time travel story, but unlike most time travel stories, the protagonist is in absolutely no control of his travels. There are some real god-from-the-machine situations where the hero is backed into a corner and the timeline gets completely replaced by powers unknown rather than have him get destroyed, which becomes quite anti-climactic when overused. We get told the timeline has been replaced with little or no explanation, which I believe is supposed to add to the mystery of it all, but when the mystery never becomes clear it leaves the reader feeling a bit unsatisfied. Or perhaps I missed something through all the Faction 1, Faction 2, Faction 3, Saurians, Munti, Erins, Baramuntis, Baragans, Nogi, Anogi…who am I leaving out? Oh ya, the Gates, the Black Eye, the Black Hats, the shadow-whatsits… must be a few more I’m missing, right? I’m just happy I remembered the names of the ones I did.
This works well on an individual basis--not so well with the larger organizations. As mentioned, there are mysterious factions referred to by number: Faction 1, Faction 2, etc. A few times there is much discussion about this faction or that faction, but I couldn’t bring myself to care about faceless organizations. What does it matter which faction is doing which thing, when all of them want you dead? Is so-and-so with Faction One? Is he with Faction Two? Oh, right, he wants to kill me, I guess I should focus more on that.
So let’s focus on the superbly written characters and the page-to-page narrative. The main character develops quite clearly from an insecure know-nothing to a boastful, but insecure know-nothing with good sword skills. It’s a harsh description, perhaps, but we can’t blame him for knowing nothing when he always seems to know more than we do. He is likeable in all the ways he should be, and at no point does his character become inconsistent or otherwise unbelievable. There are quite a few other characters, making it a bit difficult to keep everyone straight, but it adds much depth to the world the author has created.
The writing itself is skillful. It flows one great description to the next, making it a breeze to just pick up and enjoy, without worrying too much about where the story is heading. I have leveled so much negative criticism, it might seem as if I hated this story, but it’s quite the opposite. Each mini-adventure is worth reading just for the artful prose and the overall life-or-death tension it provokes. It’s staggering just how much world(and universe)-building has been stuffed into one novel. This story is unique enough that it shouldn’t be overlooked by any fan of sci-fi, or fantasy for that matter.