Across the Face of the World review

Nice maps, shame about the plot.

529 PAGES · £7.99

Author:
Russell Kirkpatrick

Publisher:
Orbit

ISBN:
1-84149-463-1

Rating: 2_5/5

You can tell a lot about a fantasy book by the number of maps in the front; this has five. The author’s other passion is cartography, so it’s no surprise that this is a quest novel, a form well suited to exploring a fictional location. At times it feels like a video game, as characters collect items and allies to tackle each new environment, dropping them when they’re no longer necessary.

We follow a party on their way to find two missing villagers and avert a war. There are a lot of locations, and a lot of characters, yet even over 500 plus pages, it doesn’t feel like you get a chance to know anybody. The environments are well-drawn enough, but the minisocieties seem far too simple and the central characters are pretty two-dimensional on the whole. They spend much of the novel tackling the dangers of the natural world: such dangers are never really interesting enough in themselves, only in how the characters deal with them, and these characters just aren’t well-rounded enough to sustain the narrative.

There are some refreshing elements. Kirkpatrick holds back on the magic – it’s a small but crucial element of his world – thereby ensuring that it doesn’t become mundane. The plot, when it finally gets going, is interesting, even if the main villain is reminiscent of Darth Vader. In order to get that far, however, you’ll have to wade through a lot of (literal and metaphorical) rambling and a fair few clichés.

Eddie Robson

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