The fourth book in the Psalms of Isaak series continues the very weird and original story that involves steampunk robots, world-ending curses, weird magic powders, and a bunch of powerful wizards who live on the moon. It’s a pretty cool story, but unfortunately my experience of reading it wasn’t ideal.
I received an ARC of the first book in this series in 2008 and I gobbled it up. It was a teensy bit rough getting into the storyworld for me, in the way that it sometimes is with new fantasy books that have complex worlds to build for their readers, most of them from the ground up. But the story and the characters were intriguing, and it was a ridiculously fast read. The second book was published six months later. I had a bit of trouble getting back into the story and trying to remember what was going on, but only a bit. The third book was published a year later. I had a significantly harder time getting back in to the story and trying to remember what events had led up to what was going on. My problems weren’t helped by the complete lack of any exposition in the series. If you don’t remember exactly what has happened before in this series, you are screwed. I was of two minds with this. While I appreciated not being talked down to by the author, and liked that he assumed I would be smart enough to catch on to what was happening, the fact was that it had been two years since I’d started the series and in the interim, I’d been filling my brain with hundreds of other new books and cramming for my Master’s Exams. I caught on eventually, though, and enjoyed myself thoroughly. And then Scholes didn’t publish the fourth book for three more years. The result of this? I was completely and utterly lost for the first third of this book, and still not completely sure of myself for a good part after that.
I’m not sure how fair of me it is to judge this book based on my particular reading experience, but I can’t give this book any higher than three stars because the fact is that being that confused by a story (especially when I’m used to kicking pretty much any story’s ass that I read) was not a fun experience, and that made me resent the book. Look, I’m not sure what Mr. Scholes could have done about this, aside from writing the book faster*. Maybe something as simple as a brief summary of previous books at the beginning? Again, I appreciate that he didn’t feel the need to make callbacks and re-explain things he’d already explained in previous books, but come on. And it’s not even like I could turn to Wikipedia or some fan-made wiki for plot summaries or anything, because these books aren’t widely read, and those things just don’t exist. In order for me to have fully appreciated the events of this book, I would have had to re-read the first three, which is something I had neither the time nor inclination to do.
*I’m pretty sure a couple deaths in the family contributed to the slower writing pace for this one, and I get that. I’m not a total dick.
If any of you plan on checking this series out (and despite the tone of this review, I would suggest doing so if you like fantasy), I would highly recommend waiting for the last book to be published and then reading them all in a row. If I’d have done that, I’m pretty sure this would have been a four star read (although to talk about the actual book instead of my feeeeelings, part of me felt this book, unlike the last three in the series, was sort of treading water, not wanting too much to happen before the finale).
But, Mr. Scholes, please for the love of God, help me out next time? Just a little. I’m trying really hard to like your series, but I’m only human, here.