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review 2020-06-18 13:20
'Scarlet Odyssey' by C. T. Rwizi
Scarlet Odyssey - C. T. Rwizi

'Scarlet Odyssey', a debut novel by C. T. Rwizi, scheduled for publication on 1st July, is an epic fantasy that twists the classic quest trope into something new and exciting. C. T Rwizi, who comes from Zimbabwe originally is another exciting writer adding to the growing body of African Science Fiction (think 'Rosewater' and 'Binti').

 

'Scarlet Odyssey' is an epic fantasy with world-building on a huge scale, spectacular new magic systems, warlords who use black magic that feeds off human sacrifice and complex political and tribal systems that are under covert attack from external forces who are fomenting division and violence.

 

C. T. Rwizi manages to keep all this spinning and still have a story that is mostly character-driven and which is fast-paced enough that the 559 pages flew by and left me wanting more.

 

The plot folds five main storylines together, each focused on a character who have in common only that they face challenges that require them to reshape themselves, often in painful ways. The paths of these fives stories spiral in towards one another as the plot unfolds.

 

The dominant story is about Salo who comes from a tribe where men are fierce warriors and women become magic-wielding mystics. As a chief's son, he should be a warrior but he has failed to pass the necessary tests of courage. He is also secretly practising magic and, when the tribe is in danger, risks becoming an outcast by going through a ritual to become a mystic. Salo is then immediately sent on a quest to the Kingdom of the Yontai, the political centre of their region, that provides the frame for the rest of the novel.

 

Then we get the story of Ilapara, a young woman from Salo's tribe who has left their land to pursue a career as a mercenary in the neighbouring, warlord-ridden Umadiland. Being a mercenary is not what she hoped it might be and she sometimes finds herself doing things she does not think are right so when she meets Salo in Umadiland she accepts a post as his 'muscle' for the rest of his journey.

 

The third story tells of The Maidservant a powerful mystic who is a lieutenant (known as Disciples) to the most powerful Warlord in Umadiland and who pursues and attacks Silo on his quest. The Maidservant's story is told in the current timeline, intercut with scenes that show why and how she came into her power and the heavy price she paid for it.

 

In the Kingdom of the Yontai, we follow the story of Isa Andaiye Saire, a young princess in the ruling clan who is about to have her life torn apart and find herself with responsibilities that she has not been trained for.

 

The external attempt to destabilise the tribes is being driven by the fifth character, a mysterious woman known as The Enchantress. We only get parts of her backstory but her view on the world is very different from any of the other characters.

 

Although 'Scarlet Odyssey' takes place on an alien world with two suns and seems to be in the far future, it has a distinctly African feel to it that distinguishes it from all those kinda-sorta Medieval Europe only with magic fantasy books that I've seen so many of. It's not just that all the clothes and names and some of the tribal systems and symbols are African, it's in the mindset that accepts that pain is inevitable, that we all fail, and the world is often cruel and or indifferent. All of the characters in the five main storylines carry scars and all are trying to force transformations that are likely to require sacrifice.

 

At one point Salo and The Maidservant clash and in the process learn a great deal about one another. In a more Anglo book, one of them would be good and the other would be evil. In this book, they both discover that they have done terrible things in their past, unforgivable things, to get them the power they now have. I liked that, instead of discussing guilt, or shame or atonement, Salo says that the only freedom they have is to choose a different future.

 

I also liked what happened when Salo is confronted with the reality of slavery. Ilapara, who has grown used to having the stench of slavery in her nostrils, initially thinks Salo's response is dangerous, naive and ultimately futile. All of which is probably true. Yet Ilapara recognises that Salo has brought more change in a day than she has seen in years.

 

I don't know how many books there will be in this series but I hope they keep coming at a pace. By the end of the book, all five characters are in the Kingdom of the Yontai and the stage is set for major change. I'm engaged with the characters. I can't see a simple way forward. I know there are many things I don't yet understand about this world. So I need the next book as soon as possible, please.

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text 2020-06-03 23:32
Reading progress update: I've read 12%.
Scarlet Odyssey - C. T. Rwizi

'Scarlet Odyssey' was my pick from Amazon's First Reads offer this month.

 

It's a debut novel from a young writer, born in Zimbabwe and educated in Costa Rica and the US and now living in South Africa. I was attracted to it because I've seen some great things coming from African Science Fiction writers in the past few years. This one takes the classic fantasy quest framework and weaves in new-to-me mythologies and has some novel gender-based divisions of labour - woman are the quick-witted ones who learn and wield magic, men are the ones who attack big beasts with their bare hands.

 

It's off to an excellent start with two interesting characters (who haven't met yet) some startling magic and a lot of action.

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text 2020-05-13 10:58
Reading progress update: I've read 275 out of 275 pages.
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy

This was fun, but also quite melodramatic. The love story had all the feels, sometimes a bit too much for my liking, especially towards the end of the book.

 

And as for Marguerite:

 

She is supposed to be the most clever woman in England and yet she succumbs to an idiotic human being, who makes all the wrong decisions because she is anxious about her husband. And she pretty much turned into a damsel in distress towards the end of the book and I really didn´t like the development of her character in this specific direction.

(spoiler show)

 

 

 

 

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text 2020-05-13 07:27
Reading progress update: I've read 218 out of 275 pages.
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy

I really do think that the screenwriter of Murder Ahoy, one of the Rutherford Marple movies, has been inspired by this book:

 

The snuffbox incident...

 

[Source]

(spoiler show)

 

Anyway, I´m up for the great finale and of course, I´m totally rooting for the Scarlet Pimpernel.

 

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text 2020-05-12 11:22
Reading progress update: I've read 143 out of 275 pages.
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy

Had she but turned back then, and looked out once more on to the rose-lit garden, she would have seen that which would have made her own sufferings seem but light and easy to bear - a strong man, overwhelmed with his own passion and his own despair. Pride had given way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love, as soon as her light footstep had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot trodden, and the stone balustrade, where her tiny hand had rested last.

 

Oh my gosh ... hahahaha. Methinks he is a bit overdramatic. 

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