Guys, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to jump into another ongoing book series because the last time I did, I wound up being pretty darn confused for the first three or so chapters. That tends to hurt the experience while also not being the author’s fault at all. However, the Amazon description of Martha Wells’ The Edge of Worlds, does call it “the first book in a new series,” so I thought I’d be safe to start here.
It’s the first book in a new arc, not a series, meaning the characters have had three other novels to establish themselves, their personalities, and their back stories. I showed up late to the party.
That being said, the first chapter of Edge of Worlds is such a poor introduction that I’d have been lost regardless of my knowledge of the previous books. Indigo Court is a huge and densely populated place, turning the first twenty pages into an assault of over twenty different character names, a bunch of fantasy species names, and a handful of different location names.
It’s a mess of information, and it makes the driving problem hard to focus on.
I was also pretty confused about the look and size of our main characters. The Raksura are shapeshifters, and in their flying forms, have very dragon-esque descriptions. Turns out, they aren’t dragons; they’re some kind of gargoyle. They are also roughly man-shaped. It took me to around page 70 to finally be fed up enough to Google the darn things to see what they looked like, though in my defense, the review .pdf I have didn’t come with any pictures of the cover.
That’s all the bad news. The good news is that by the end of the third chapter, I was pretty well hooked.
Our plotline is pretty simple, and one you’ve seen before if you’ve played Halo. We got our good guys, our bad guys, and a big, mystery city built by forerunners to compete over. What’s in the city is of course dangerous because stories are very boring when they lack danger. Queue the violence!
While the plot doesn’t break many molds, it’s fun enough for me to not really care. The mystery city/mystery artifact/mystery creatures plotline offers so much to work with, and Mrs. Wells takes full advantage of it. Between the random guesses as to how to enter the city, the battles outside to establish dominance on who goes in, the last ditch efforts, and the little bits of politics, we’re treated to a lot of drama that works. And that’s all before they even enter the forerunner building! Once they get in, we get more drama, outright horror, magic, and more.
Edge of Worlds is a page turner, is basically what I’m saying.
But what the novel really excels at is world building. Edge of Worlds is a massive book, one with tons of different people, places, cultures, and magic. Everything is handled well, with descriptions of people and places taking up just the right amount of space to paint nice pictures while not being overbearing. There’s joy in the little things, from the scholars debating forerunner artifacts to the half-underwater Sealing whorehouse two of our main characters stumble across when looking for information.
Edge of Worlds takes place during a time period where most of the world hasn’t been fully explored, and that opens up limitless possibilities.
It’s also a very vertical world. Between the Raksura’s ability to fly and the steam-punk/magic airships, we spend most of the book above ground. There are large trees so big we never find out what’s on the ground, floating islands, and a few tall mountains for good measure. It’s cool, and when it comes to fantasy novels, somewhat different from what I’m used to. It helps that a lot of the human-esque characters have magical jetpacks so they can keep up. I have to wonder why most fantasy novels with lots of magic don’t have magical jetpacks now that I’ve read a book with them. Like Halo, it’s always better with jetpacks.
Sadly, I do think Edge of Worlds is more of a world-building novel than a character-building novel. There are too many characters from start to finish, and very few get anything remotely akin to development. Moon plays the role of our protagonist, and while he’s alright and enough of a risk-taker to be worth following around, there’s honestly not much else to say about him. He acts as a nice set of eyes, and I suppose I sympathize with him somewhat, but his shtick of, “I was an orphan and have finally found a people to call my own but am an outsider and also there’s a culture clash” comes off as a hair trite.
I’d have preferred the novel follow around his wife, to be honest. Jade is just as much of a badass, and as a Raksura queen, has way more stress to deal with.
This viewpoint extends to almost everyone, because when you have a ship filled with fifteen or so more people, you just don’t have the time to juggle them all properly. I grew attached to maybe four characters, but only found Stone to be worth stressing over when the danger hit. Everyone else? Eh, let ‘em die if need be. There are plenty of others yet.
I do realize that this viewpoint would probably be very different had I started with book one. I’m sure the likes of Briar and Song and Merit are given a reason to exist beyond their one-sentence personalities that, now that I’ve finished the book, I can’t even remember.
Edge of Worlds isn’t a perfect novel, but what it does well it does very well. Once I found my groove, I certainly had a blast. I suppose the best way I can end this review is thusly: I’ll certainly read the next book (those darn cliffhangers), and I’m tempted to go read the first three as well.
I want to know more about this world. I want to know more about some of these characters. I want more of this kind of large exploration, where the first page of the novel feels like a year ago by the time you hit the last.
Those kinds of adventures are special.