To mangle a footballing cliché, this was a book of two halves.
It took me a while to get into, but by the time I was deep in the backend of the book, I was hooked.
Why the initial reservations?
The main character grated. Eskara is angry. She’s been dealt a bad hand, is young and struggling with what she’s gained and lost. She’s easy not to like. I could deal with this. What niggled was her telling me how unlikable she was. She did this a lot but there was no need – her actions told their own story. One or two moments of self-observation would have been enough. Which dovetails into…
The ‘wisdom’ quotes. I feel churlish pointing this out. I’m a sucker for this these and the Razor’s Edge is full of pearls. My problem? They were overused. Their power waned when they came at me too fast. They are good, they would have been better rarer. Then again, it may just be that this swine of a reader couldn’t appreciate them.
The swearing. See point two. (And one.)
Having spent three points saying ‘there was too much of X, Y and Z’, now I want more of D: dialogue. Done well, which I know this author can do from his Best Laid Plans books, it can keep things moving. In the first half of Along the Razor’s Edge there is a lot of digging while the characters get where they need to be. During this section, I would’ve preferred more drive which dialogue may have helped with.
The second half of the book did away these things.
Eska was still angry but she wasn’t telling me how angry she was so frequently. Similarly, there were fewer ‘wisdom quotes’. They were presented more subtly when they were there and, as a result, were more powerful. The same goes for profanity. There was more talking, too.
Then there were other things that came into their own in the second half.
The narration from the point of view of an older Eska added a good perspective. It layered on depth and intrigue, hints of what is to come.
The flashbacks that illuminated parts of her and Josef’s past and linked them to their current situation. (And, I suspect, introduced characters we will see more of.)
The non-human races. The Imps. The Damned. Ssserakis. (Which is a great nnname.*) They added a grim dimension to the world.
On that note, It would have been nice to mix some of the other non-human races from other countries in with the general population of the Pit. In a world where such people exist, I sometimes wondered how segregated the Pit would really be.
The flight through the underground city. Or what in my head was the ‘Moria’ section. (That’s meant positively.) The pieces that had been shuffled around in the first half of the book now had time to vent: lust, anger, regret, violence, duplicity, love and bittersweet tenderness. It was all there and the book lifted.
MINOR SPOILER ALERT!!!
The characters developed and came into their own. Eska’s infatuation with Isen being very well done (especially the details of how that relationship climaxed*). Her relationship with Josef was similarly good. Though at the end I do wonder why he wasn’t armed with more ‘sources’ and if Yorin got off easy.
MINOR SPOILER ALERT OVER!!!
There was even sight of a man’s cock and balls, which makes a refreshing change in a genre where the only nudity is usually non-male and there are breasts and ‘boob-plate’ a plenty.
Finally, I need to mention the magic system. It strikes me as something that may have arisen from a typo – ‘sourcerer’ vs. sorcerer. Regardless of the origin, it’s good. The way those powers are wielded is creative (again, more evident in the second half) and ‘sources’ have a great way of limiting those powers. (Though not for those with a weak stomach.*)
I appreciate that the second half of the book wouldn’t exist without the first, that it built on the foundations that were laid in the bleak tunnels of the Pit, but it took a while for me to get to the point where I wanted to read ‘just one more chapter.’ Once there, though, the book flew.
Is it worth it?
*Yeah, I know. #dadjokes. Couldn’t resist.