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The Skein of Lament: Book Two of the Braided Path

by Chris Wooding

(Gollancz, £10.99, 405 pages, trade paperback, also available in hardback priced £16.99, 20 May 2004. Gollancz, £6.99, 536 pages, paperback, published May 2005.)

Review by Caleb Woodbridge

Chris Wooding weaves a rich and detailed tapestry of Saramyr and the world beyond. cover scanBoth the world and the characters he creates are complex and ambiguous, and the story is steeped in political intrigue. Yes, there's a fairly conventional evil force that is corrupting the land and attempting to take over the world, but even this is done vividly and freshly and the menace is all the more effective for having the backdrop of a believable world.

Five years have passed since the events of the first novel in the trilogy, The Weavers of Saramyr, and Kaiku and Mishani are now working with the Libera Dramach to discover and foil the plans of the sinister Weavers who are plotting to take control of the country. The story gives further depth and breadth to the world, both filling in details of Saramyrrhic history and taking us further afield to such places as the wild continent of Okhamba. The characters also grow, such as Kaiku, forced to quickly master her ability to enter and maniplate the Weave, the fabric of reality.

Although richer and more complex than his novels for children and young adults, Chris Wooding isn't quite skilful enough to avoid having a loss in the clarity of the storytelling as a trade off from this. Personally, I found the level of sex and, to a lesser extent, the violence was a bit too much for me to enjoy it as much as I'd have liked, but your mileage will probably vary on this. I think it was probably the cynicism of some of the characters that put me off more than anything--I'm a big softy when it comes to a soppy romance, but when making love is just another weapon in Saramyrrhic politics and intrigues, then I find it something of a turn off.

Saramyrrhic society is one based on a history of genocide and on present injustice, and the author's strong moral feeling comes across here. The politics of Saramyr has resulted in a Prisoner's Dilemma type situation, where the self-seeking of all the individuals is leading to disaster for society as a whole as the Weavers seek to take control. The blurb claims that this novel is "an extraordinary fantasy for the 21st century", and its concerns of the responsibilities of power and seeking to deal with the wrongs of the past are certainly very contemporary concerns, though it is difficult to assess Wooding's arguments without yet having the conclusion to the story.

The review on this site of The Weavers of Saramyr noted that Chris Wooding is a rising star in fantasy writing today, and this book cements that reputation. Detailed and gripping, this is mature and enjoyable fantasy of a very high calibre.

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