Fantasy writers tend to get locked into writing books in a series; instead of focusing on putting one standalone story out after another they tend to (even if it is their debut novel) have “first in a series” or “prequel to” such and such series in their titles. Unless I know the author, seeing something like that on a cover more often than not causes me to pass them up.
How good can the story be, I find myself wondering, if it isn’t able to stand up on its own, but needs to tie into previous publications to work?
Melanie Rawn’s The Diviner was a book I nearly passed over for that very reason. Though it might not say so on the cover this is a book that is a stand-alone prequel to a previous work, namely The Golden Key written by Rawn and coauthors Kate Elliot and Jennifer Roberson.
I’m so glad I did not pass it over.
Beginning with Azzad al-Ma’aliq, the lone survivor of royal treachery that destroys his entire clan, this is a story that stretches across multi-generations and deals with the drive for vengeance and how it can be tempered (or inflamed) by the passing of time.
There is a wonderful middle-eastern flair to the characters and to the fantastic world they inhabit. Granted, in many ways it seems much like our own world but there are moments, specifically suggested by the nomadic tribe of healers known as the Shagara, who are more than our reality might allow. But there is just enough of a divergence to make you want to truly dig into the backdrop behind the characters and experience the land itself as a part of the story.
Melanie Rawn is an amazingly talented writer who is capable of some of the most direct and clearest fantasy writing I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. The people she populates this novel with are not only interesting but are real in such a way that she truly had me rejoicing with them at certain points in their lives and grief stricken with them at others.
In the end I suppose the very best thing I can say about Melanie Rawn’s The Diviner is that it has excited my interest enough to search for my own copy of The Golden Key and continue the story this book begins.