It's hard to believe that I haven't written a book review on my blog since I read Ken Liu's brilliant GRACE OF KINGS, but it took a pretty amazing book to break me out of those doldrums and one of the first wave of Tor.com's novellas was the one to do it. THE SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS was an incredible book that just blew me out of the water.
A few months back I read Wilson's short story "Super Bass" that was set in the same world as this book and was blown away by it. This book is just a continuation of that feeling and when I finished SORCERER, I just kept wondering where was more of this. There is so much to love in this book that I seriously had a hard time starting this review.
First, the world. Jeez, I want more of this world. In the short space of a short story and a novella, Wilson has created a massively complicated and very real feeling fantasy world with an obvious history filled with a diverse population of peoples and cultures that are grounded in reality. I want more. I want a world book. I want more stories about Sea-john and Orolumi (spelling?). The world feels like a hodge-podge of things that Wilson wanted to include in his own corner of the fantasy universe and it works brilliantly where others have failed.
Wilson's use of language is amazing. I've never read something that so effectively uses dialect without being hacknied and cliched. His integration of a modern dialect into a fantasy setting is seemless, which goes back to the hodge-podge feeling of his world and how it works. At times some of the language in the narrative itself threw me, forcing me to reread passages to make sure I didn't miss something, but I blame myself for that, not the writing.
The magic system was okay and a little confusing at times, but I'm not a magic system guy, so it didn't slow me down in the least.
The characters are well done and where a less skilled writer might fall into cliche, Wilson plays with the tropes in a way that makes the characters fascinating. From our demigod main characters: Demane, a lost soul that makes the mistake of instantly falling in love with the equally divine Captain so hard that he's willing to follow him across the world while keeping their relationship a secret to he stoic and savage Captain that can only speak in song that is capable of great acts of violence and love to background characters like Wale, Xho Xho and Messed-up, that give us a taste of who they are and just how divesrse a world this is.
The plot moves right along, taking what could be a simple caravan guard story and making it an infinitely more interesting story of good vs. evil on a far grander scale. There were hiccups for me in the way Wilson tells the story, but like the language, I blame myself and not Wilson's writing.
THE SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS is clearly one of the best books I've read this year and I can't wait for more from Wilson.