Review: Vengeance by Ian Irvine

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Title: Vengeance
Author: Ian Irvine
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Tainted Realm #1
Pages: 544 (paperback edition)
Published: November 2011
Source: SFRevu
Rating: 5/5

In Cython’s underground slave camps, only the timid and obedient survive – and Tali is neither, for she has sworn to bring her mother’s killers to justice. In Cython, having magic means the death penalty, and Tali’s gift is swelling out of her control.

Her dramatic escape precipitates Cython's war on a weakened Hightspall and, when Tali is rescued by Rix, heir to Hightspall’s greatest fortune, they flee through a land in turmoil. But Rix’s subconscious is scarred by a sickening secret that links him to the killing, and before they can solve the crime, and defend the realm, Tali and Rix must learn to trust each other.

All the while, Tali is hunted by a faceless sorcerer who can only be beaten by magic, yet the one person who can teach her to use her unruly magic is the sorcerer himself.

As she unravels the ages-old conspiracy behind her mother’s murder, Tali’s quest for justice turns to a lust for vengeance. But how can she avenge herself on a killer who died two thousand years ago?

Tali is a slave, and Rix is a noble, but they share a secret that could break them both. Add to this a brewing war and magic that destroys as well as it creates, and you've got a mix that is both fascinating as a premise and difficult to execute successfully. Yet author Ian Irvine builds a stunning start to an epic fantasy that should become a dark jewel in the genre.

Tali is just a child when she witnesses the brutal murder of her mother. She lives in a state of constant terror -- terror of her slave's life and of dying the way her mother died. There are forces at work within herself far beyond her ability to comprehend, let alone control. She has to find a way to avenge her mother's death and discover her own hidden secrets before history repeats itself, or her masters decide to kill her for fun. Her character is strong, willful, and she never gives up. These qualities make her a first class heroine, but she is also stubborn and immature, which gives her character a layer of flaw that demonstrates Irvine's ability to bring characters to three dimensions.

Rix, too, is an imperfect hero, a haunted young man with a desire to do the right thing by the people he loves and protects with a sense of honor that goes far beyond necessity and nearly into obsession. Rix is Tali's only hope of survival -- and even more may ride on their journey together than they can guess. They, though, are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the author's ability to create amazing characters, as Tobry and Lyf, two other important players in this story, can show.

The world building politically, culturally, and physically is top notch. Irvine even uses the land itself as character that can express itself in its own limited way. These two peoples, struggling against each other for centuries, vie for power in the land. Yet what are the true motivations for this power? Is it vengeance for perceived past wrongs? Who is really in control of these cultures behind the scenes?

Rix and Tali's desire to see peace and prosperity for everyone in the land seems an overwhelming task already, even more so given the unseen currents of power trying to weave the future in their realm to their own advantage. Yet Irvine creates a discussion of fate and chance, for though events may seem preordained, no one has the power of a God. The main characters are on a chessboard, moving to a stunningly clever dance, the outcome of which neither side can see. Action and reaction lead to a climactic build up where the reader will be on seat edge wondering who comes out on top.

My favorite part of this story is the dramatic tension. It's exciting as a reader to know most of the pieces of the puzzle, and to watch these characters you love try to piece it together as well. Can they do it quickly enough to build a life for themselves, and to save the people they love against a power they can't truly understand? Sure, this is the definition of dramatic tension, but it is done in classic fashion that helps make this story a thrill ride.

As a first time Ian Irvine reader, I can't comment on how this new series beginning compares with his previous works. However, the depth of character, the quality and pacing of the action, and the heart of the story itself -- the journey of life with all its heartbreak and joy -- all lead me to believe that if any of these qualities interest you, you should go pick up this book now.

Highly recommended.

I received this book as an ARC from SF Revu. 

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