Monday, October 19, 2015

Book Review: Irona 700 by Dave Duncan

Irona 700
by Dave Duncan
Date of Publication: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media
Buy It: Amazon / TBD
Source: NetGalley



"Fantasy at its most enchanting: An original and absorbing tale from a master storyteller about the profound effects of a single life on the battle against ultimate evil

It is Midsummer Day, the beginning of the year 700, in the city of Benign. All the children born in the year 684 celebrate their joint sixteenth birthday by passing in front of the statue of the blind goddess Caprice—but only one will become the Chosen and join the Seventy who govern and guide the city.
 
Much to her surprise, Irona Matrinko, one of the many children of an impoverished fisherman, is chosen. Irona 700 moves into the palace and, with the help of a new mentor, recognizes and cultivates her great talent for guiding wars: strategy and tactics, leadership and inspiration.
 
As Irona gives her life to the city, an ancient enemy, Maleficence, attacks again and again, corrupting Irona’s friends, destroying her lover, and continually defeating her grandest plans for peace and harmony. Along the way, Irona becomes a masterful politician, a shrewd judge of character, and, even at great cost to her personal happiness, a true heroine."



My Review:
 A stand-alone fantasy novel set in a world similar to ancient Phoenician, Mycenaean, an Babylonian periods. To me at least. A place where men fight with swords, servants carry their masters in litters, and Maleficence is tucked away in the corners of the world. The novel follows the political life of Irona 700, one of the Chosen of Caprice to lead the Empire of Benign. Every year all the 16 year-olds of Benign are paraded to the old city to throw a disk into a basin at the temple to see who will become the next Chosen for the goddess Caprice. These Chosen comprise of The Seventy who rule of Benign and the surrounding Empire. They then elect Seven of themselves as head officers and one First who outweighs all in political procedures. There are no royal lineages and women are treated equally.
 Irona is one of the few morally adept of the Seventy to understand the Empire has flaws in its policies and how it treats other tribes. One thing I enjoyed about this novel is that it has a strong female protagonist who succeeds politically and doesn't preoccupy herself too much with love. While I liked the main character, the character development itself wasn't extraordinary. I didn't feel much empathy for the characters even though I followed them throughout most of their lives. Always lurking is an fantastical element that is referred to as Maleficence that the people of the Empires have fought against and feared. The world itself is interesting. There are elements that remind you to ancient Mediterranean civilizations and those of more arid areas like the Levant area. The story in some parts didn't really seem to go anywhere and felt like it was just a compilation of Irona's successes and failures. Each chapter covers a certain year(s) that were the major points of her career as a Chosen. I was more interested to see how the author created this world and if Irona would advance politically. 


The Good: 
Irona's wit and political savvy; diversity of tribes, people, and lands; political scheming and military scheming; Irona's leadership and intergrity


The Bad: 
Character development; sometimes lack of direction


Recommended For Those Who Like:
Ancient history, strong female protagonists, little romance, war, political fantasy, trogs.


About the Author: 
Dave Duncan is a prolific writer of fantasy and science fiction, best known for his fantasy series, particularly The Seventh Sword, A Man of His Word, and The King's Blades. He is both a founding and honorary lifetime member of SF Canada. Dave and his wife Janet, his in-house editor and partner for over fifty years, live in Victoria, British Columbia. They have three children and four grandchildren. Visit his blog and webpage: www.daveduncan.com

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