With the surface of their world wrapped in ice, humans lives inside walled cities created by the Gols, a race from beyond the Forever Gate. The Gols provide and maintain the cities, the portals linking them, and every necessity of life. In exchange humanity must submit to wearing brass collars to suppress the electrokinesis that they develop in adulthood. But now the Gols are starting to make mistakes. Seeking only to protect a loved one, Hoodwink is drawn into a plot to remove the flawed masters of the cities.
Despite being only the beginning of the plot rather than a whole book in its own right, this work has great depth. Hoodwink’s world is introduced and explained with great skill leaving both the majority of the work for the story itself and space for a good description of the world beyond the Forever Gate.
The character’s are similarly impressively detailed. Hoodwink himself is an engaging character from almost the first sentence and continues to expand as the work continues. The supporting characters receive less description, but it is carefully chosen: unlike many fantasy stories there are no paragraphs which exist to show differences between the world and mediaeval Europe except where the difference is also key to the character.
The style reminded me of the clarity of Zen painting, a few key strokes which do not need to fill in the spaces. Not unexpectedly this distillation of people and worlds into their essentials does not always provide a perfect picture: there were a few points where I needed to pause briefly to consider what had not been said. I suspect that it could become frustrating to readers who do not enjoy teasing out slivers of explanation to weave into theories about the greater picture.
As the first part of a longer work it does not bring the main arc to a close; in fact I found the ending quite abrupt. However there are several complete minor arcs and Hoodwink’s arc from recipient to active participant is brought to a very satisfying point.
Overall I found the sound technique and engaging plot of this book more than made up for the irritation of it stopping in the middle of the main arc, making this is one of the better part-works I have read.
I received a free copy of this book.