Last night I finished A Telling of Stars by Caitlin Sweet. It was a book club book from sffworld.com. I had picked it up against my first thoughts, as the reviews weren’t very good.
This is a story of bitter heartbreak and revenge. Jaele sees her mother, father and brother brutally murdered by a band of Sea Raiders. One Raider remains and instead of leaving by sea, he heads inland. Jaele had been told story after story of their warrior queen from years ago, and she decided to follow the Sea Raider in the Queen’s footsteps and kill him. Her quest is to take an army to the Sea Raiders land and kill them all. She ends up travelling across the land, coming across many different kinds of people and cultures.
I didn’t really care for this story and here are the reasons why:
1. Jaele wasn’t an overly believeable character. She was hell-bent on revenge after hearing stories of a woman who had already cursed the Sea Raiders and their land. She meets a boy, Dorin, on her beach many many years before the story takes place, and ends up being in love with him to the point of distraction. I found this irritating because it is very rare that a woman (not just a girl anymore) will hold on to a childhood crush. Most women’s tastes change, and although she may have a soft spot for that specific person, she wouldn’t throw away two perfectly good men for the one that she hardly knows. The other thing that I didn’t like about her is how egotistical she is! She felt like she had to be involved in everything! SHE had to free the people under the rock! SHE had to help Keeper. I found her overly selfish with a one track mind.
2. I had a hard time with the world in which she was travelling. Jaele spent a fair amount of time on the road alone, but there was very little talk of her travels. If one would only “know” and believe what was in the book, she met almost no one on the roads. This to me seems entirely incongruent with human nature and life in general. All sorts of people travel. There is no bloody way that she would have been alone all that time. I can’t believe that she didn’t fear for murderers, rapists, theives. I know that she had a single minded purpose, but she should have run into things along the road.
3. I don’t really like the theme of revenge. I can’t relate to it, unless it is a believable situation. I don’t think that hers was.
4. I didn’t like the writing style. There was too much supurfluous crap. I felt like I was reading someone’s NaNoWriMo submission that they had beefed up just for the word count. I suppose that many people would appreciate the “lyrical” style, but it just annoyed me like crazy. I just wanted to scream “Get on with the story!”
There were some things that I did like about the book. I liked the different cultures, the different types of people. I liked her diving under the lake to meet the Fisher Folk, and the sea snake. I liked the sourfruit grove, and the people by the river. I liked the story of Keeper and what he had to endure. I liked the tree scene with Dorin.
I think that Ms. Sweet has great ideas and great people (minuse the character that I didn’t like). This was her first book, and I would be interesting in seeing what else she produces is like. I know that she is doing a sequal to ATOS, but I think I will check her out if she writes something that isn’t related to Jaele.
This book would be rated PG13. It’s not overly brutal, sexual and doesn’t contain bad language. Early teens will enjoy this book if their reading comprehension level is high enough.