Caution: Gushing Review Ahead.
I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in a very long time. From the moment Maraline, Goddess of the sea, makes her very impressive entrance, smashing a blockading armada of sea-going warships to splintery bits, I knew I was in the capable hands of a very talented writer. I was ready to be taken for a ride. And what a ride!
Cassandra Duffy deftly avoids all the traps and pitfalls that so many modern Fantasy writers fall into. She doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, doesn’t try to make us believe that this is the first and only book to feature smelly ogres, dwarves and giant spiders. Instead, she very smartly plays off of already well established concepts familiar to fans of Fantasy and mythologies, while still throwing in lots of twists to keep things fresh – and us readers on our toes.
Nor does Ms. Duffy attempt to write a ‘sprawling epic’ featuring forty-two different plot lines, with a cast so vast it requires its own appendix (I think thirty-eight plot lines and nineteen protagonists is actually par for the course in Fantasy these days). Instead, she keeps the focus squarely on the shoulders of her two wonderful main characters; Harper, Sword Maiden and servant to the Ocean Goddess, and Calista, the dark and mysterious thief from the south.
There are so many things that impressed me about this book. Cassandra Duffy demonstrates a HUGE amount of talent as a writer as she balances adventure, action, romance, and yes, humour. This is a very funny book with a wonderful sense of whimsy – even biting sarcasm, at times. That’s not an easy thing to pull off – especially in Fantasy. The humour is never silly, never slapstick or deprecating to the genre, and never detracts from the more adventurous or romantic elements. Far from it. Everything feels natural to the narrative and never contrived. If anything, it makes everything more real.
Speaking of difficult subjects to handle; the more romantic elements are handled quite masterfully, too. The romance that blooms between Harper and Calista is touching and sweet, and Ms. Duffy knows when to add just a little spice when things become a bit more steamy.
I’m almost befuddled by how much I enjoyed this book. When I come across a new book, let alone a new author, who, well, blows my mind like this, it kind of staggers me.
Well, I’ve been staggered.
Okay, Not So Final Note:
Geek admission: Fans of Fantasy Role-Playing games will love this book, too. I just happened to be playing through Dragon’s Dogma, of all things, when I stumbled across this book. They made for wonderful companion pieces.
*DIVINE TOUCHED is suitable for YA and Adult.