I've been meaning to read some of Paul Kearney's works for some time now. This author is not widely known in North America, but he's been on the European scene for quite a while. Even better, I've only heard good things about him. Last but not least, Kearney comes with the Steven Erikson seal of approval! All in all, the odds appeared to be in favor of my liking Kearney's novels.
This author is known for the brevity of his books. And in this day and age, fans are screaming for epic fantasy works of titanic proportions, or so it seems. Hence, Kearney's novels are a far cry from the "doorstopper" works which have made Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, Steven Erikson, Peter F. Hamilton and George R. R. Martin famous. As as such, can the man compete with authors like these? Well, the answer is yes! Believe me when I tell you that great things come in small packages!
The Mark of Ran immediately grabs hold of you and won't let go. The pace is fast and crisp, with a narrative that flows effortlessly. Much like a thriller, the novel is a page-turning reading experience. With relatively short chapters, you always tell yourself that you'll only read one more. And then you reach the end of the book!
One would tend to believe that a 400-page novel would be rather linear and simplistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a work that echoes with depth and an assured knowledge of the sea.
Unlike writers like Jordan, Erikson and company, Kearney doesn't go overboard (no pun intended!) with secondary characters and sub-plots. As a result, his main characters are more fleshed out more rapidly, and the novel moves along without a glitch.
Umer appears to be a far-reaching world, even if Kearney only offers us a glimpse in this opening chapter. Something tells me that the worldbuilding will continue to impress me as subsequent volumes are released.
The storylines don't necessarily offer anything new, but Kearney's style is definitely his own. The high seas and other naval elements make The Mark of Ran something special.
Hopefully this review will pique people's curiosity enough for them to give Paul Kearney a chance. Especially in the USA and Canada, where he remains little known. This is an author worth discovering! It's with great pleasure that I'll now read the second volume in The Sea Beggars sequence, This Forsaken Earth.
In my opinion, The Mark of Ran makes a fine addition to any fantasy collection.
The final verdict: 8/10
For more information about this book: Canada, USA, Europe