Verdict: AHE’EY is fast-paced and interesting story that never feels dull, but it is ultimately bogged down by its execution.
Open Jamie Le Fay’s AHE’EY to a random page, and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a standard fantasy epic. Flick to another and you might instead decide that you’re holding a contemporary thriller with a feminist edge. Actually, it’s both. In this slipstream novel two worlds exist alongside one another, and our protagonist Morgan steps gracefully from dangerous encounters in present-day New York to learning about magic in the hidden kingdom of Ahe’ey.
There’s more to the fantasy realm that can be compressed into a short review, but Ahe’ey’s unique selling point is that it’s a world in which the gender norms of our own are thoroughly reversed. There’s plenty of interest to unpack from this concept, but the book explores its themes with a liberal sprinkling of action. Indeed it’s fast-paced and suspenseful enough that it never feels dull, despite weighing in at almost a thousand pages.
That said, the writing is persistently clumsy, particularly during moments of high drama – of which there are many. It’s almost possible to hear the descriptive ability of the writer straining like an overclocked computer during action scenes. Moments that should be exciting, free-flowing and fast-paced end up just sounding awkward:
“He kicked one of his attackers in the head, killing him instantly. The same kick disarmed another attacker; he picked up the knife and threw it at the man, who fell to the floor, motionless. The two other men stopped, looked at each other and ran away…”
Dialogue is similarly strained in texture, and often reads like the characters are quoting Wikipedia. Most of the cast are flat and simple. The central romance, while steamy, has nothing by way of actual spark – perhaps because the two players involved just don’t act, speak, or behave like real creatures. There’s plenty of interpersonal drama going on, with near constant fights and feuds – but the layer of complexity and depth that might make these things feel real just isn’t there.
AHE’EY has many interesting elements, and is built around a novel and timely conceit. It’s also fun to read and fast-paced enough to belie its length. If they can look past the quality of the writing and characterization, fans of fantasy epics may well want to add it to their reading list.
~Krishan Coupland for IndieReader