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Canticle by Ken Scholes

Posted by travizzt on September 30, 2010

As the second book in The Psalms of Isaak does it raise above my thoughts on the first? Or is it one in the same?

Canticle by Ken Scholes- This is the second book in The Psalms of Isaak series. The first book is Lamentation, the third book is Antiphon and was recently released September 2010, the fourth book, Requiem, and the fifth book, Hymn, are yet to be released with no set release date at the time of this review. Ken Scholes has written only one other novel called Last Flight of the Goddess. He has written a number of short story and even has a book of his collected short fiction called Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Journeys. Canticle is published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC under Tor and was first released in hardcover in October 2009 and then in August 2010 it was released in paperback.

After the destruction of the Windwir and the loss of the Androfrancine Order, the Named Lands are still coming to terms with the catastrophe. However, the orders wealth and knowledge was passed to Lord Rudolfo and the Ninefold Forest Houses. Rudolfo is getting his Gypsy Scouts ready for the birth of his son with his soon to be wife Jin Li Tam. With a lot of nobles attending the party, one would think that nothing bad could happen to the guests. While the party is going on, the gate to the barren land of the Old World called Churning Wastes, gets a unique visitor with a message. A cryptic message meant for the ears of the Hidden Pope Petronus.

1) Slow. This is the biggest problem that Canticle had, the pacing of the story was incredibly slow. There are things that do happen that do speed up the story in some parts, but overall the story unfolds at a snail’s pace. It hampers the story slightly, because it seems to take forever for things to unfold. There were times where things seem to be repeated over and over. It could have been because there wasn’t a lot of action scenes, and the story relies more on political intrigue and conversation. This wasn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, all the intrigue was exciting. One would think that an exciting story wouldn’t have been a quick read, however this isn’t the case. While the slow pacing is understandable, it just took way too long to read through an exciting story.
2) Repeating Background. Another problem that can be associated with the slow pacing is that everything seemed to be repeated. Having to be reminded that Jin Li Tam is the forty-second daughter of Vlad Li Tam every time Jin had a scene did become a little old fast. It didn’t help that Jin is a main character and has a scene come up once every ten or so pages. This kind of thing does happen at least a few times with each main character, always highlighting something repetitively. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it occurred to a more minor character. If that was the case, it would have been welcome and not as intrusive. However, once again, this problem doesn’t really impact the whole enjoyment level of the story.

1) Characters. The characters were all very unique and distinctive. Each main character, and minor, had a different personality, a different character arch, and a different path to take. There were times when reading the character viewpoints that almost made it feel like I was reading a totally separate story. It was almost like a book full of short stories that all connected to one another in some way, shape, or form. Aside from that, the characters never felt repetitive, it never seemed like they were the same characters. Like I mentioned, they had separate personalities and were different from one another in that regard. Also, the characters all played a role, to varying degrees. All in all, the characters were unique and different from one another.
2) Story. The story itself was very interesting. I should mention that Canticle is not an action orientated story. There is some action scene, but they were barely mentioned or happened. Instead, we have a story that’s more based in political intrigue than anything else. I, personally, am not a political interested person. In fact, I could care less about such things. That being said, I was amazed by how focused I was on the story and all the little facets how things are ran in the Named Lands. I was very surprised that I found myself caught up in the political alliances that each separate state had. While the political intrigue played a large role in the story, another premise kept popping up. Canticle is very family heavy. What I mean is that the story brings the idea of how having a family can change a person. This whole arch is mostly found in Rudolfo’s and Jin Li Tam’s relationship and the birth of their son. You see how these characters drastically change from how they were in the first book. If there was a theme to be found in Canticle it’s how having a family affects a person. All in all, the story was just plain wonderful, full of intrigue with a heavy theme of how a family affects people.
3) World. The world that is created in The Psalms of Isaak is really intriguing and seems to stand on its own. I’ve never read a series that relays so much on the reading understanding the world that is created then in here. It may be a turn off for some readers, I know I was more than a little annoyed by the lack of exposition in the first book, Lamentation. However, if you have read the first book, you start to see that the world itself has a long, interesting history. In fact, I think that somewhere down the line another author could, potentially, try their hand in the world. I’m not saying that it should happen, it’s just with a world so rich as the Named Lands is, I could see it becoming a shared world almost. The world is just rich in history and the unknown that it could open up so much more.

Side Notes:
1) Italicized Sentences. This is something that did bug me, but not enough to harm the story over all. On almost every single page there is a word, or sentence, that is italicized. Now, it wouldn’t have been as annoying if it was someone’s thoughts or the sign language that this world has. But instead it’s used to emphasize a point. A point that would have been better left not italicized. It didn’t really add much, and could have been toned down.
2) Dark. I never really expected the story to be as dark as it was. There were times when I was at a loss for words by how brutal and disturbing things got. The best part was, it never seemed violent, it just felt violent.
3) Cover Art. Canticle has two covers, one for the hardcover and one for the paperback, by different artists and has a different style and look. I didn’t pick up the hardcover (which is below), but from what I can the see from shots online, it’s just generic. That’s it, just generic. My copy Canticle is the paperback so I’ll talk about that one first. It’s interesting. The color scheme is nice because Jin Li Tam really stands out. It the red really draws your eye. Plus, she looks good.

Overall: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
Canticle improved on what I found wrong with Lamentation. However, the slow pacing of the story still was an issue. It wasn’t as noticeable as before, but it still impacted how enjoyable the story was. The other issue was repetitively mentioning certain things over and over. This was part of the cause of the slow pacing. However, even with those problems, Canticle still shines in its characters and story. The characters all felt unique and different from each other. They all went through their own experiences and had their own stories to tell. The story was just fantastic. It didn’t rely on action sequences to carry the story along. Instead the whole story relies more on political intrigue, and it works surprisingly well. I will say that recommending Canticle is kind of hard to do. I will say that you need to read Lamentation before jumping into this, else you’ll be lost with all the history and back ground.

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