Epic fantasy of demi-gods and dragonflies. Yes, they have something in common… Thread Strands.
Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (For mild to moderate language)
Ticca and Lebuin are at it again. This time they are not searching for a missing mage, being chased by Knives, and casting enough magic to keep the dirt off their clothes – blame Lebuin for that last one – but instead are involved in… much more. To quote Leeland Arta himself “… the Gods and kingdoms find themselves preparing for war with the Nhia-Samri,” or at least that is some of what is happening. What else is going on in this book? What about that demi-god and dragonflies thing I mentioned? I suppose you will have to read the book to find out. (But for real, there are dragonflies, okay. I know it seems crazy, but just check out the cover art if you don’t believe me. Ooooo, pretty.)
So, in case you couldn’t figure out from my crazy antics above, the cover art is amazing. Don’t believe me, just look at it… oooooo. Okay, enough of that. Leeland Arta slaps on a beautiful cover and again includes those nice hand drawn graphics inside to wet your whistle for what is to come… but that is all formatting gimmicks and things that we should be applauding the artist for, not the author. So… plus plus to the cover artist.
On the good about the actual writing… okay, on second thought… The glossary and numerous appendixes are a must mention once again. There is even more (I know, right) content in the back of this book than there was in Thread Slivers. You could almost read all the goodies in the back and make up a whole book of your own. Yes, it’s that intense. Arta really knows what he is doing when it comes to research and making the world fully developed.
Finally, on to the writing goods. The action scenes are pretty amazing. The reader does not get bogged down in pages and pages of spelling out every single sword swipe, but there is just enough description to keep you invested while still moving along nicely. In short, well detailed, but not overloaded like those cheeseburgers with “the works” on them that sometimes you can’t even get into your mouth. In the longer, more involved, fight scenes, Art switches up the POV just enough to get a flavour of the battle from all sorts of angles and perspectives giving the scenes a well-rounded feel. This also helps to keep things moving, while building suspense with the characters that Arta just left bleeding out. Are they going to die, you ask? Too bad. You will have to wait to find out. POV change time! This not only keeps the action going and builds suspense, but adds more emotion to the scene as the reader gets into many characters heads throughout the action.
Not to save the best for last, but this was the selling feature of the book for me. I absolutely fell in love with the history of the world and the mystery and tech involved in that. Arta gave us a taste in Thread Slivers, but Thread Strands definitely delivers. All of that glossary work finally begins to shine as the reader learns more about this well thought-out world that Arta has created. The presence of these reveals give Thread Strands a significantly different feel than book one. At times it almost takes on a Science Fiction flavour, which is quite unique in the midst of a militaristic epic fantasy novel. It’s like seeing a spaceship dropping aliens in the distance while Frodo makes the final climb to drop the One Ring to its fiery death… Okay, maybe not that drastic.
If you read my review of Thread Slivers, you may note that I rated it 3 stars, and this book only 2 stars. The biggest factor for this change is not that Arta‘s writing got worse with this sequel, but the bad parts of book one bled into book two, reducing its enjoyability. The ending of book one was poorly implemented, and this issue crosses into the first few chapters of Thread Strands. So many things are left hanging in the air that Arta has to spend a lot of time re-explaining what happened in book one to get the reader back up to speed. The tell vs. show model implemented for this purpose feels especially awkward because (in case you don’t recall) book one ended in the middle of a fight scene. This means that all of this dry explanation and re-telling is still happening in the middle of that same fight scene. This, unfortunately, slows the fight down to a crawl. Stab. Pause. By the way, in case you forgot… many paragraphs later… Slash. Parry. Oh, and do you remember this other thing that was happening? Dodge. Slice.
Another major issue that this book suffers from is poor implementation of explanations. Character A says, “And as everyone knows… blah, blah, blah.” This again is a poor use of the tell vs. show model. Many times the characters stop to chat about the world they live in and what is going on, or has gone on in the past. This does get the reader up to speed, but it comes off rather dry and unrefined. Sometimes characters are thrown into the conversation at appropriate times to ask the questions that the reader wants to ask, thus making the writing feel a bit rough. This bleeds into the sometimes rather lengthy thought processes of the characters in Thread Strands.
Why is Character A doing that? Thinks POV character. Oh, it must be because of this and that and the other thing. That makes perfect sense now!
This model leaves no room for the reader to ponder for themselves what is going on. If the motivations of the characters were more refined, such thought patterns wouldn’t be needed to explain certain elements.
Some scenes seem to jump ahead, leaving the reader lost a bit, trying to figure out how the chapter previous leads into the chapter present. It makes the book feel unfocused and leaves the reader confused a lot of the time. It is hard to follow character’s motivations because the reader is never sure who is who and why they are doing what they are, or how they got where they are. There is a lot going on in this book, and if more time was spent on leading the reader through some of the unwritten scenes, Thread Strands would feel more complete and be an easier read.
Again I have to talk about the ending. Thread Strands almost ends on a real cliffhanger (unlike Thread Slivers). Hurrah! There is a wonderful build-up to the final scene that leaves the reader with that give-me-more-right-now sense. This is what a cliffhanger is supposed to do. Unfortunately some of the other plot lines that are being followed do not resolve in any meaningful way, or at all for that matter. This leaves the reader scratching their head a bit. It was especially troublesome for me because there is even more glossary and appendix work in Thread Strands than there was in book one, so I thought there was still a fair amount of book left to read. My Kobo said page 316 of 381 when I was done, which translates to 82%.
Thread Strands is a continuing tale filled with intrigue, intense action, and world building that will leave your senses tingling. The graphics on the cover and throughout show how much attention to detail that Arta puts into things… or maybe they are just good in their own right. Unfortunately, despite the wonderful world coming to life, histories being revealed, and battles being fought, the book doesn’t pull together as much I had hoped. The end is rough and the beginning is even rougher. The reader is babied a fair amount with tell vs. show and passive voice sections that keep them at a distance instead of invested into the glorious world and intriguing tale that Arta has created.
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