Art of forgetting: Nomad by Joanne Hall
This is the second part of a duology –
First half review: (The art of forgetting: Rider)
Rhodri is a foundling and has a perfect memory. He clearly remembers his father but knows very little about his early childhood. This is an important plot point, which does raise a few questions, no spoilers but he had a pretty famous father who I just thought may have been mentioned once or twice in Rhodri’s hearing before the plot dictated the reveal. However this minor point didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book which is a - 'young lad joins the army, becomes a man' -format, but told in an engaging style which never gets dull. All the usual stuff happens, first battle, first love (with both sexes), first loss, friendships and enemies. Rhodri becomes a rider in the king’s third (As it’s fantasy and is about a cavalry officer there is a lot of horseyness in parts!) who patrol a city called Northpoint (which was instrumental in a civil war that happened in the past but very much informs the events of the book). We see that healers and magic users exist but they don’t have much impact on the lives of the men of the King’s third and in one memorable incident there is a river demon. However it is mostly a low fantasy book concentrating on the lives and loves of Rhodri and his friends as he goes through training and on to a posting at the edge of the country which the second book will explore. This is very much the start of the story and the next instalment is coming soon in which the epic part of the fantasy will probably come more to the fore. The author explores some big themes in this part of the story around identity, gender and sexuality. She does make the characters come alive and I am keen to read the second book.
Second half review –
The book starts where the last one finished in a direct run on, which is a nice touch if you are reading both together but took me a short while to remember what had happened in the first book, although I’m glad the author didn’t spend much time doing the always tedious to read “and this happened in the first book” explanations. However it does make it difficult to discuss the plot without spoilers for the first book. So I won’t. Needless to say there are bigger battles, more death, more magic (of the Shamanic variety) a new culture, and a different part of the map, to explore and lots more love and agst. I think I’d recommend buying & reading both parts together for full effect. The writing is always engaging and easy to read and the characters are mostly fully developed. I’d say that if you enjoy the first one, you’re very likely to enjoy the second one, after all you get to see how things end up. I suspect there will be more books set in this same world as some of the characters didn’t have a neatly tied up ending at the close of the book.
Overall – Enjoyable fantasy