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The Weavers of Saramyr

Book One: The Braided Path

Chris Wooding

Orion / Gollancz

UK Hardcover First

ISBN 0-575-07441-8

Publication Date: 05-15-2003

Pages: 375; Price: £17.99

Date Reviewed: 18-08-03

Reviewed by: Katie Dean © 2003



Fantasy, Horror

Chris Wooding in 'The Weavers of Saramyr', has created an intriguing battle between the forces of good and evil, set in a mystical land. This is the first in a trilogy set in Wooding's invented country, Saramyr. The very nature of the trilogy immediately leads to the temptation to compare it with 'Lord of the Rings'. Yet Wooding's trilogy is no Tolkien copycat, rather a novel of mystery and political intrigue, an adult version of the traditional fairytale conflict between the powers of good and evil.

Saramyr falls very much into the realm of a fantasy-land. However, it bears a strong enough resemblance to our own world that the reader can easily form a picture in his or her mind. Wooding has found inspiration from the Orient. He describes a land bound by a formal culture based strongly upon social hierarchy. The Saramyrrhic language is tonal in nature and possesses a number of modes designed to reflect the social status of the participants of a conversation. In this sense, one cannot help but think of Chinese or Japanese. The names of characters and places are also strongly oriental. However, all this knowledge comes from the descriptions given by Wooding; he makes no attempt to reflect these linguistic particularities in reported conversations.

The Saramyr people are largely human. However, the human Weavers possess special powers that provide them with access to the Weave, a complex network of communication beyond the reach of normal human perception. One has to marvel at Wooding's imagination in creating such a concept. He goes to great lengths to describe this magical system, invoking powerful imagery, but yet the Weave remains a difficult and intriguing concept to grasp. It's best decribed as a fantasy version of cyberspace. Saramyr is also possessed of a substantial set of gods and goddesses all of whom play an active role in the nation's life. They are reputed to control the spirits of trees, animals and other less pleasant creatures. Saramyr lacks the many and varied races of some fantasy worlds, but the creatures it does support are more than sufficient to create two opposing armies of good and evil, an evil quite graphically and lovingly described.

The story regaled by Wooding is a complex mystery that he carefully unfolds chapter by chapter. The novel opens and closes in much the same manner, with tensions running high and as many mysteries as there are answers. The intervening chapters maintain this high drama fitfully. Wooding introduces a number of separate characters with their various lives very early on in the novel. Structurally, the story juggles between the different lives of these people, much in the manner of a soap opera script. Thus the tension remains present, but has the potential to become lost in the frequent changes of scene. Wooding is careful to maintain the mystery whilst gradually revealing answers to some of the questions he has raised earlier in the novel, but this is not sufficient to keep the high dramatic tension established in the opening chapters. As a result this novel is definitely fascinating, but not really as much of a page-turner as it could be.

'The Braided Path' is the first volume in a planned trilogy. It creates a mystical land and charts the political fight between the powers of good and evil as they seek to gain influence over the land. Imaginative as Wooding's world is, it does suffer from an unfortunate proliferation of bad grammar and rather more typing errors than one would like to see. This aside, The Saramyr trilogy has commenced with a very promising work that is sure to leave readers keen to observe the next episode in this imaginative power struggle.