Title: Anvil of Tears
Series: Reforged trilogy
Publisher: Loose Leaf Stories
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My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The alien Arcadians always want to fly, not to run. But whatever else she might like to call it, Maeve Cavainna is running. She is chased closely by the infamous bounty hunter, Logan Coldhand, who intends to drag her back to Axis to collect the high price on her head.
When he finally corners Maeve, the long chase seems to be over... until a frightened girl stumbles into the middle of their fight and begs for their protection. Maeve and Logan call a reluctant end to their battle and promise to help the girl, but they have agreed to far more than they know. Can the fragile peace between hunter and mark hold long enough to save the lives that depend on them? (GoodRead's blurb)
To sum it up in one word: Potential.
I had not read sci-fi for a while, more focused on fantasy and young adult, but Anvil of Tears brought me back to the genre and I don’t regret it. The concept that made me grab it from the virtual shelf involved the mixture of two genres that are too often lumped together in spite of their differences and to be honest the book makes a more than decent enough job of throwing fantasy fairies in a world of interstellar trips.
There were several qualities I’d point out, but perhaps one of the best is world building. The alien races and culture were detailed and original –even thought I kept seeing “Avatar” every time the Dailon were mentioned and I had to wonder about how furry two-legged dogs could make for good mechanics. The fairies are just another alien race, the destitute ones without a home planet, and we learn extensive bits of their medieval-like customs in the middle of superluminal flights and laser guns.
I appreciate every bit of the immense work E. C. Lindquist and Aaron Christensen have gone through, really, but the truth of the matter is that it should have been more subtle. The world needed to be developed, just like it was, but not every detail needed to be carefully spelled out for the reader.
When the explanation took over random paragraphs in the middle of what should have been the action, I had to wince. Info dumping happens often, even when the book is not indie, and often times it is done much more clumsily than in Anvil of Tears... but then again, those other books don’t have the sheer potential of being Great that Anvil of Tears does.
The good news is that after the first third of the novel or so the little cues and bits and pieces that have been previously planted start falling together and gripping the reader in a well thought-out, convoluted plan that should appeal to fans of fantasy and sci-fi alike: power hungry maniacs, bitter princesses, cold lone wolves against the backdrop of mankind’s (or rather, the sentient beings’) eternal search of the meaning of life.
The characters in charge of moving the story forward are interesting, and each of them is unique in their own way – broken people who stick together, who would make up the dregs of society if society were anything better than a dreg already but who are trying to change things and do something noble.
Again, huge potential. Again, I’d have loved it if the way all the characters get involved in the Big Quest weren’t so... irrational. Please, allow me to spoil the first 20 pages or so out of 500.
Maeve is the female lead. She is cold, cares little for anyone, and hides the pain from her past against an unbreakable aloof façade. She also happens to be a drug user, and to have a bounty in her head. Logan is the male lead. He is a machine of perfect logic and feelings never hinder his judgement, because he can’t feel a thing. He has been pursuing Maeve for a year. He happens upon her while she’s getting a shot, and they fight. Then, a pregnant scared woman enters the picture while escaping from a gang. Logan and Maeve hide the woman; Logan hands his laser gun to Maeve and tells her to threaten him with the weapon so that the gang will just walk by them.
Did that make sense for you, character wise? Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think neither of the two would have bothered to help the woman – and much less to become defenceless because of her.
The obsession with keeping the pregnant woman alive keeps moving the plot forward, to the point that even though we can see how other forces get in place to play their hand, her safety is the one thing moving Maeve and the motley crew of her ship forward. Logan more or less returns to normal, but she –and her crew- risk their lives, their ship, and spend to the last cent in their purses to safeguard a stranger.
It is nice to think of such good-hearted individuals, but it feels weak in the broken worldscape painted by the authors. There were other ways to involve the main cast in the Big Quest. It would have been better if the crew could somehow had a prior involvement with the pregnant woman that explained away their willingness to help.
It would have been better if I had believed in what the characters did.
If you don’t mind the above issues, though, I’d like to recommend Anvil of Tears to you. The prose is excellent, the idea is good, and the plot gets interesting when it starts to fall in place (around halfway into the book). Sci-fi fans should love it, and fantasy readers might enjoy the new perspective into fairies. As I said, I do not regret acquiring this book.
It’s just that it could have been so much more...