cartesiandaemon (cartesiandaemon) wrote,

Conspiracy of Truths, Alexandra Rowland

I kept putting this off because it looked really good but there wasn't an ebook.

The cover

E.g. see on goodreads: It's so beautiful, it somehow conjures the exact feel of the book, of illustrated manuscripts (even though there aren't any, it evokes a monastic tradition)

The premise

The main character is a Chant, belonging to an order of wandering story-tellers and lore-preservers. At the start of the book, he's been arrested for witchcraft in an overly-bureaucratic country he's never been in before, and constantly complaining how his trial is run.

The characters are amazingly vivid: his advocate who doesn't get on with him but takes his case because it's prestigious, looking for a boring cushy job, or looking to support her family, depending how you look at it; his assistant, young, earnest, well meaning, slowly learning the role of a chant; several rulers of the country, stern, or wavering, or mysterious, or flighty but cunning.

It's reminiscent of other books that bring a monastic tone into a fantasy world, even though the wandering chant has no connection to other chants.

The good

The way they describe the story telling, trying to keep the heart of each story, but being open about how the details vary according to the listener, and that they try to preserve as much good stories as they can, but they know the history will be lost.

It does an excellent job imagining a fantasy world that's not male dominated: there's three notable male characters, and at least eight women. Similarly, there's passing mentions to diseases which are not understood, but are recognisable to a modern reader, but the world doesn't have an unrealistic level of knowledge about them, but isn't just "you never meet people like that" either.

It's clear there's a variety of cultures in different countries with different mores about all these things, so it's not just "everyone has modern sensibilities", but also the book is set in a culture which isn't aggressively bigoted about things modern readers wouldn't agree with either, which is a nice balance.

The main character spends most of the time in prison, but the book manages amazingly well to tell his story, while also telling the story of the political upheavals in the country, mostly inadvertently triggered by him.

The less good

Some things just didn't ring quite true. I didn't know enough to say if I was right, but I felt like the monetary system (including paper money, and a government controlled mint), the political system (kind of corrupt, but run on elections), and level of technology (I'm not sure) didn't all fit together quite right. And some of the politics felt a bit too pat when I looked back. But fwiw, they FELT right, the book wove a story where it all felt like a real place with real characters and things actually happening, not conjured into existence by authorial fiat.

The annoying

I often rant about annoying things in books I otherwise like, but this book wins my occasionally-awarded "some books don't have anything annoying about them but that doesn't mean they're perfect but no-one believes me until I exhibit some examples" award.

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Tags: book, conspiracy of truths
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