Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Legend of the Raie’Chaelia -- A Review

A week from today I'll be hosting a giveaway on the blog tour for an ebook copy of Book 2 of Melissa Douthit's fantasy trilogy The Legend of the Raie' Chaelia (rye - kale - ya).  To prepare for my review of The Firelight of Maalda, I was sent as well Book 1 The Raie' Chaelia and two prequels, The Journey Begins and The Vanishing.  So I thought I would say a little something about them that might help prepare the ground for next week's review of The Firelight of Maalda.

As  The Raie' Chaelia   opens we find young Chalice traveling alone on horseback in a forest nearing the destination her grandfather had directed her to the night her hometown of Canton had been overrun by the False King's army.  But when she reaches the town of Branbury it is eerily empty as is the homestead of her grandfather''s friend who was to instruct her on where to go next and explain to her the secret of her parentage.  Her grandfather had promised from her early memories that when she was old enough he would tell her and had planned to do so on her 18th birthday which had still been some days off at the time their town was invaded.

While exploring the empty house of her grandfather's friend she is interrupted by an intruder that turns out to be Jeremiah, the youngest son of the household and a young man she remembers as having spent part of a year living in Canton when they were very young.  They had had a fast friendship at that time and it took little time for them to settle back into that camaraderie.  From that moment on the two are virtually inseparable.  They set out to find and rescue Jeremiah's family and friends who had been taken captive by the False King's men.

On their journey they traverse a high mountain pass escorted by a member of the Chinooks another sentient race who live there.  They see exotic animals and spend the night in one of the fabled underground cities where their ancestors had rode out the ice age several thousand years ago.  They meet up with an old man named Ben who claims to be a friend of Jeremiah's father and to have been on his way to meet Chalice to escort her to safety.  But Chalice refuses to go with him as long as Jeremiah's family and friends remain captive so Ben is obliged to help them with their mission first.  A mission that carries to the end of Book1.

Come back next Tuesday for my review of Book 2.

This fantasy trilogy has a lot going for it.  It is well plotted and the world building is extraordinary. The science under-girding it is impeccable   The main characters have depth and personalities that come alive on the page.  The dialog is more than competent with different characters having distinctive voices.

That said, there are a few areas that could do with some polishing.  The pacing within the scenes is often choppy with action and dialog being interrupted for too long with large chunks of description.  The information imparted at these times is interesting, even fascinating, and it furthers the plot and/or world building so it is not that it is fluff or filler just that it jars one out of the flow of the story.

The manuscript could do with a good line edit as well.  There are a number of sentences scattered throughout with missing or extra words, the kind of thing that happens when editing or rewriting a sentence and either leaving behind or removing a word or partial phrase unintentionally.  This is the kind of thing spell checkers can't find and they are also very difficult for the author to spot as we tend to see what we expect to see on our elebenty-third read through of sections we have rewritten uncountable times.  Fresh eyes are needed to catch these and the author can only get that by setting the manuscript aside for several months.  I know whereof I speak.

The two prequels have the same issues but the biggest issue I have with them is that they are separated from  The Raie' Chaelia at all.  Maybe it is a matter of taste or maybe someone thought it made Book 1 too long but I would have preferred the stories in them had been incorporated into the beginning of the first book.  Not only do they introduce the two main characters and the settings that they are catapulted out of into their adventure but there is information that speaks to character motivation and experience that is crucial to understanding or believing certain events in The Raie' Chaelia  and The Firelight of Maalda.  I can't be more specific without giving spoilers.    

In The Journey Begins we are introduced to Chalice and the idyllic town of Canton in which she had grown up.  We learn of her unique talents and skills and glimpse the core of her character.  We come to love the town and people in it along with her and thus are devastated along with her when she is ripped from it unwillingly and thrust into her adventure.

In The Vanishing me meet Jeremiah and experience the bucolic life of Branbury in which he was raised and which, though grateful for it, he is champing at the bit to leave in order to see more of his world and fulfill his desire to travel and learn.  This story ends with Jeremiah's return from a long solo hunting trip to find his family's homestead abandoned and an intruder in his father's study.

Mellisa Douthit has the science background that qualifies her for the exquisite world building in this trilogy.   With a degree in Computer Science she currently works as a scientific and mathematic programmer for the Army Corp of Engineers in Salt Lake City.  Previously she has worked for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, NASA Ames research Center, Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Naval Postgraduate School.

At this time she writes on the side but her dream is to shift the balance the other direction making programming the side job while writing full time.

Be sure and return next Tuesday for the blog tour and my giveaway/review for The Firelight of Maalda.  Which if you'll excuse me I'm off to finish.

BTW if you wonder why bother entering a drawing for book 2 when you haven't read book 1 well you can download or read it and both prequels for free at Smashwords for a limited time as part of the promotion for The Firelight of Maalda.

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