Verdict: A sequel to his epic fantasy novel STARWATCHER, David Rice's SPARKWEAVER begins to deliver on its premise and set-up with a story that ticks along as its puzzle pieces fall into place.
The second novel in David Rice’s HALF-ELVEN trilogy, SPARKWEAVER continues the story of Muren – an exiled starwatcher and a failed wizard who redeems himself as a father to a precocious half-elven girl named Kirsten. Former nun Helba, kindhearted hunter Balinor and the mute magic-user Raish provide invaluable help to Muren and Kirsten alike.
However, this isn’t really a story about them – or at least, not entirely. More than anything, SPARKWAVER tells an epic tale of a growing conflict among four races: humans, gnomes, dwarfs, and elves. Theirs is a war born out of greed, prejudice, and bad leadership, embodied by the over-the-top villainy of the human king Lornen the Chosen. While the novel’s panoramic perspective is certainly interesting, it by necessity relegates even its most colorful characters into mere pieces of a larger mosaic, thus lessening the novel’s emotional impact. Novel’s betrayals, battles and sacrifices sometimes feel underwhelming because so many of the characters are merely observing the bigger story.
One of the best examples of this is Ulimbor, an evil and powerful shaman leading the monstrous Lifebane. As part of his vengeful war against other races, Ulimbor sacrifices his son and thousands of his own kin while trying to awaken the mythical Drakes of the First Dawn and thus usher in the end of the world. And yet, for being such a central threat to all the other characters – good and bad alike – Ulimbor’s evil ends up feeling strangely impersonal.
In my review of the first novel in the HALF-ELVEN series I wrote: “Hopefully, David Rice will deliver a payoff in the sequel and thus redeem STARWATCHER”. It was unfair of me to expect such a payoff in a middle novel of a trilogy. And yet, SPARKWEAVER is a step in a right direction: its story ticks along and the puzzle pieces are falling into place. While I still believe that these novels demand far too much patience from an average reader, I admit of growing somewhat fond of the HALF-ELVEN series and of looking forward to its conclusion, titled DAWNCALLER.
~Danijel Striga for IndieReader