Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review of C.E. Murphy's Wayfinder

Title: Wayfinder
Author: C. E. Murphy
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Formats: Trade Paperback & ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
Wayfinder is the second book in the fantasy Worldwalker Duology, and I highly recommend that you read the first in the series before reading this one. I did not, and while there’s a short plot summary of the first book, Truthseeker, at the beginning of the second novel, it’s actually more confusing than if you simply pick up the second book and start reading. That said, this was an outstanding fantasy with romantic elements, and I’ve already started reading several of Ms. Murphy’s other series because of how much I enjoyed it.
The second novel of the duology picks up exactly where the first leaves off, which is why I suggest you read Truthseeker before beginning Wayfinder. I should warn you that this review will reveal spoilers for the first book, so be prepared. In Truthseeker, Lara Ann Jansen is a tailor in present-day Boston, and she always knows when a lie is told. She learns the importance of her gift when she meets Dafydd ap Caerwyn, a Seelie elf who has been searching for a Truthseeker in this world for over a hundred years. Dafydd wants her to return to his world, the Barrowlands, to uncover his foster brother Merrick’s murderer. To make a long story short, Lara learns that Merrick staged his murder and is acting against Dafydd and his father, Seelie king Emyr. Dafydd is seriously injured when attacked by creatures sent by Merrick, and Lara is forced to leave him with his brother, Ioan, and return to Boston to search for a staff that she hopes will save Dafydd.
As Wayfinder begins, Lara is returning to the Barrowlands with the Worldbreaker, the staff that she’s hoping can save her Seelie lover. The staff has a mind of its own, and despite yielding to Lara’s powers, demonstrates a dangerous inclination to destroy worlds. When Lara arrives, she discovers that although only a day has passed in Boston, more than six months have passed in the Barrowlands, leaving Dafydd’s fate up in the air. When she learns that he is so ill that his body has been sent to the Drowned Lands, she decides to journey there in an attempt to rescue her love. She and her companions face numerous trials in their attempts to save Dafydd and possibly reunite the now divided Barrowlands, but as Lara begins to develop her power as Truthseeker and arbiter of justice, she learns that Merrick’s deception might not be the worst she’ll uncover, placing everyone she cares for in danger.
Fantasy is not my favorite genre, but this book is compelling for many reasons. The world building is complex without being overly complicated, and I like that you get a feel for the terrain of the Barrowlands. The physical descriptions of the different regions were almost tactile, and I think this was an effective method of immersing the reader in the new world. The differences between the Seelie and Unseelie courts juxtaposed with the impressive descriptions of the Drowned Lands make for fascinating reading. Characters’ physical traits also reflect the region in which they live, making for a rich fantasy world that I very much enjoyed.
Another selling point is that the characters are intriguing and well developed, especially the female protagonist, Lara. While the romance is not the focus of this novel, Dafydd and Lara’s relationship is charming, although I should mention that if you’re interested in lots of smexy times, this book might not be for you. That said, it is clearly Lara’s journey as a Truthseeker that is the focus of this novel, and as such, it is highly successful. We see Lara grow more confident in her abilities and demonstrate her willingness to use them to intervene in this new world. I particularly liked her time in the Drowned Lands, as she displays heroic qualities when faced with unfavorable odds and stubborn companions.
My only complaint about the novel is that if you have not read Truthseeker, the sections of the second book that take place in Boston with Lara’s best friend Kelly will leave you confused. I’m not really sure that in the end Kelly and her fiancĂ© were all that necessary to the overall story arc. It’s clear that these sections resolve some questions raised in the first book, but Dafydd and Lara’s rescue of his brother Ioan and the resulting destruction could have been accomplished without Kelly’s presence. If you’ve read the first book, you will have more of a connection to these characters, but if you start the series with Wayfinder, the drama between Kelly and her fiancĂ© is distracting at best and annoying at worst. Their easy dismissal from the Barrowlands later in the novel merely reinforced my belief in their superfluity.
In the end, this is easily one of my favorite fantasy reads this year, and I highly recommend it. I do want to emphasize that you should read Truthseeker before beginning this novel. But given the stellar writing and lush landscapes of the Barrowlands, I can’t imagine that reading the entire duology would be much of a chore.

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