A Secret Atlas - A Review

I hesitated about posting this review of A Secret Atlas, as I haven't finished reading the book.

But then I thought, "Wait a minute. That should be the review - as to why I didn't finish reading it."

I am such a genius. (Like Wile E. Coyote, heh.)

So, herewith is my review of A Secret Atlas.
The Story

From the back-of-the-book blurb:

In Nalenyr, the family of the Royal Cartographer not only draw the maps, they also explore uncharted territories, expanding the existing knowledge of the world. Their talent has yielded them enormous power - and dangerous enemies. Now a younger generation of the Anturasi clan embarks on an expedition that may cost them their lives.

Keles and Jorim have been sent on a mission to explore the darkest corners of the unknown...Meanwhile, back at home, their sister, Nirati, struggles to protect her brothers from the lethal plots of their rivals...

Yadda, yadda, yadda. There's a bit more, but I think you get the idea. There's court intrigue, there's a smattering of magic, there's map making (although the last is not done in too much detail).

Nalenyr is part of a collection of nine countries/principalities, all brought together; think of what the former Soviet Union became for a short period of time, after everything fell apart, in the earlier 1990s.

What Did I Think of It?

Confusion, lots and lots of confusion.

My perplexed looks started in the first chapter, when a character named Moraven Tolo is introduced. He's on his way to some festival along with some other travellers, he sports a heavy sword, and the travellers are abushed by a bunch of (what I think) are kids - think ninjas.

But Moraven doesn't kill anybody, not that that's a prerequisite for me, but he talks a lot, and talks some more, and unmasks the kids, especially the female leader. He pretty much just sends them on their way (there's two or three), telling the female to go seek out a teacher - his old teacher - to learn more than just the stances that go along with a sword and jumping about.

As the first chapter goes along, I couldn't quite follow who was who among the other travellers. There's a little boy, his grandfather, and a bunch of other people that sounded quite boring to me.


To tell you the truth, most of it ended up being an utter bore.

I think, for me, it was that I couldn't get very close to any of the characters. There's a woman, Nirati, whom I thought I would warm to, especially since she takes things into her own hands without waiting for a man to help her out; she's pretty self sufficient, although she doesn't have the knack for magic that her brothers, Keles and Jorim have.

Then, in another short chapter (they're all short chapters, about 4 pages each), we're introduced to a high-end government official, his lackey/slave, and a low-end government official. The high-end official tells his lackey/slave to get himself aboard the ship Keles is taking to map out some more of the world.

This is where the map making = money and prestige comes in. So the lackey manages to get hired on to take notes for someone in the government. Or something.

Ah, can you tell I was bored by all of this?

Is There Anything Salvageable Here?

Moraven Tolo seems like a cool guy, but he doesn't do much as to fights; he talks more than anything. I felt it was a waste to have him do more talking than teaching. (He eventually gets around to teaching a fledgling, but I just didn't care at that point.)

The world Mr. Stackpole creates is interesting. It's an Asian-influenced world, with a smattering of what I take is Indian (I'm talking about the country of India, here).

Also interesting is that there's been an ice age of sorts; uncontrolled magic has made the world almost impassable, although at the time of the story there's been some breakthroughs (which is why Keles and Jorim are both going on, in essence, fact-finding missions).

I guess I just found the action too slow, there's almost no humor (I don't need endless yuks, but an occasional joke or sly remark would help), and the characters just aren't doing enough. They talk and they watch a lot, but the action is usually too much of a blip for me to care.

What a shame.

In Summary

I finished around page 270, which is Chapter 28 or thereabouts, so it's not as if I didn't give this tome some time to make me want to read it.

If you're a fan of Mr. Stackpole's prior books, you'll probably like this one. However, if you've never read any of his stuff, you might want to pass on this one, or read one of his earlier books.

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck