I admit I’m cheating – I finished this trilogy on Saturday. Some days are just more awesome than others.
Pamela Freeman’s fantasy adventure trilogy (for adult readers, rated M)
I don’t recommend reading just one book of these – you technically can, but the story arc won’t work as well. I do recommend reading all of them, and in order.
I first encountered Pamela Freeman at the Sydney Freecon, where both of us were guest authors (her because she writes excellent books, me because I know the organiser and he let me be a pretend novelleer, using my twitter tales as an excuse). Freeman started her reading by saying, “I’m actually a short story writer” and then read a chapter of “Full Circle” that made a complete short story on its own – a story that will haunt me forever.
Since I very, VERY rarely buy books (I’ve bought literally four books in my life, excluding presents for other people), I “encouraged” my mum to buy me the first book in Freeman’s trilogy for my birthday in February. It was only when I began reading that I realised Freeman’s conference story wasn’t a fluke. There are many similarly gut-grabbing stories scattered throughout, meaning that you not only get one giant story (which would be enough in its own right to recommend the books), but heaps of minor characters get their own stories. These stories are in a class with Margo Lanagan’s tales (and Neil Gaiman at his best), and I actually like them better than either. The stories highlight minor characters, and as a reader it meant I cared when red shirts died – in fact, I was devastated. (I cared for the major characters too, especially Bramble.)
If I have a criticism, it’s that sometimes I couldn’t keep track of everyone – but that’s a problem I have a lot, so it’s unlikely to bother anyone else. (In real life, I struggle to remember the names – or anything else relevant – of people I see every week. This makes small talk difficult, I find.)
One of the interesting things about the fantasy world is there are a few different magic/supernatural systems happening at once. The main one is “the gods”. Religious characters pray, give sacrifices, and obey or disobey commands from the gods (although not everyone can hear what the gods are saying). The fascinating thing for me is the nature of the gods. They care about the world as a whole, but are callous when it comes to individual lives. At the same time, they understand and see individuals in an incredibly special way. And they have feelings – worry, love, rejection, and grief. But being chosen by the gods is a very unfortunate fate.
I’m always fascinated by gods in fantasy fiction, from Aslan to the Ancient One (in Philip Pullman’s trilogy, which is largely a reaction against CS Lewis) to my own Jesus-inspired character, Boy. Freeman’s take on the gods may or may not have been based on her own religious experience, but it gave the books yet another dimension that makes me think and wonder.
“Deep Water” is quite different to books one and three, focusing on events that happened a thousand years ago. It’s still very good and utterly relevant, but not as tense as the other two (because we know roughly how the main plot thread ends). It’s the easiest to read on its own, and I will be getting that for Christmas this year (and borrowing it from the library in the meantime, because the trilogy isn’t whole without it).
When I finished the trilogy, I immediately wanted to start again – the whole thing. I’ve been resisting the urge, since I’m behind on my own writing quota, but I just started reading the first book for the third time in two months. *shrugs guiltily*
Play along at home: Read these books, or something else awesome.
Coming soon: A report on seeing a live choir, some kind of unusual exercise, a bubble bath, and Secret #2.
(The fish appear settled and happy, although it’s hard to tell with fish.)