This week I have mostly been reading The Art of Forgetting Book One – Rider by Joanne Hall.
I have two disclaimers to make before I talk about the book. Firstly, Jo’s a mate, and I’m a fan of her work. Secondly, I’ve been ill this week. The kind of ill that totally stops you enjoying life, without actually promising to end it for you. So a page turner of a fantasy adventure story what just what I needed. That and a lot of ice-cream.
Rider is much more than a great bit of escapism, though. Jo writes high fantasy with a straightforward, earthy humour. Her characters face difficult emotional challenges as well as physical ones; there are more inner demons than outer ones. She doesn’t gloss over the harshness of a pre-industrial, wartime existence, and neither does she fetishize it.
The novel is set in the same world as Jo’s New Kingdom trilogy, and takes up the story of Rhodri, a child found wandering in the woods and raised by villagers who mistrust his uncannily perfect memory. An outsider, he is persecuted until the day the King’s Third ride through the village and change his life almost completely.
Rhodri’s talent is of course also a curse, as he is unable to forget the horrors he sees. The bullying doesn’t stop when he leaves the village, and he makes his own mistakes along the path towards adulthood.
Rider is to a large extent a coming-of-age story, and sex and gender are important features. Jo handles these deftly, ducking genre clichés and handling heavy issues with great lightness of touch. As we see Rhodri make both discoveries and blunders, we develop an understanding of this conflicted young man, and personally I found him very sympathetic, with just enough darkness to make him interesting. He’s loyal – when he’s not blinded by his own passions. He’s honest – when he’s not breaking under the pressure of other people’s expectations. He’s ambitious, and one gets the feeling that ill things may come of it.
The book isn’t out until June, but you can pre-order it now from Kristell Ink. You can find out more here: http://www.kristell-ink.com/future-releases/the-art-of-forgetting/ or on Jo’s blog: http://hierath.wordpress.com/.