The folks at Daw Books seemed to have high hopes for Joshua Palmatier's Shattering the Ley. As the first volume in a brand new trilogy, the novel was meant to be the opening chapter of a new and complex fantasy series. Sadly, the book suffers from a number of shortcomings which precludes its chances of ever making a great first impression, and those who will nonetheless persevere and read it to its end likely won't be hooked enough to wish to read any of the future installments. . .
And yet, Shattering of the Ley could well feature one redeeming quality. Throughout the novel, my mind kept reminiscing about Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, especially The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages. Indeed, black and white characters plagued by boring inner monologues and a decidedly simple view of politics, Palmatier's new book offers a similar feel to that of Sanderson's trilogy. Minus the cool magical system and the thrilling action sequences, that is. Still, given the popularity of the Mistborn saga, pitched to the right crowd Shattering the Ley might do quite well commercially. On the other hand, I doubt that a better read and more demanding readership will find the novel appealing. . .
Here's the blurb:
Erenthrall—sprawling city of light and magic, whose streets are packed with traders from a dozen lands and whose buildings and towers are grown and shaped in the space of a day. At the heart of the city is the Nexus, the hub of a magical ley line system that powers Erenthrall. This ley line also links the city and the Baronial plains to rest of the continent and the world beyond. The Prime Wielders control the Nexus with secrecy and lies, but it is the Baron who controls the Wielders. The Baron also controls the rest of the Baronies through a web of brutal intimidation enforced by his bloodthirsty guardsmen and unnatural assasins. When the rebel Kormanley seek to destroy the ley system and the Baron’s chokehold, two people find themselves caught in the chaos that sweeps through Erenthrall and threatens the entire world: Kara Tremain, a young Wielder coming into her power, who discovers the forbidden truth behind the magic that powers the ley lines; and Alan Garrett, a recruit in the Baron’s guard, who learns that the city holds more mysteries and more danger than he could possibly have imagined . . . and who holds a secret within himself that could mean Erenthrall’s destruction -- or its salvation.
The premise of the tale was intriguing. The city of Erenthrall is powered by the magic of the ley lines. Years ago, the original flow of those ley lines were altered and used to make Erenthrall the greatest city of its time. The ley magic powers everything in the Erenthrall, turning the cityscape into something occasionally quite modern. Hence, Shattering the Ley is often a blend of fantasy and science fiction, at least to a certain extent. However, though compelling at the beginning, one soon discovers that this book suffers from a serious lack of depth and the worldbuilding aspect quickly loses most of its appeal.
The pace is atrocious. It drags and drags and drags, going through chapter after chapter without much taking place. Shattering the Ley occurs over the span of fifteen years or so, and in a nutshell is about a group of people trying to break the Baron's control over the ley lines. There are a number of cool moments throughout the novel, mind you, such as distortions and how to unravel them. But those are few and far between, which makes it impossible to maintain any degree of interest in the various storylines from cover to cover.
The characterization is definitely YA in style and tone. Which was understandable at first, given that every major character was a teenager or a child. But they grow up and become adults, yet there is very little character growth to speak of and they continue to act, think, and speak as if they were still more or less dumb adolescents. As mentioned above, they are all black and white men and women. There is not a single shade of grey within the narrative. The bad guys are bad, ugly, and they sneer a lot. As was the case with Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, Joshua Palmatier's narrative is often made sluggish because he interrupts the already slow flow of the tale with a never-ending stream of unnecessary thoughts and feelings in every single POV. There are "inner monologues" going on in everyone's head, which often makes you want to throttle the protagonist whose POV you are reading. I found that off-putting to say the least.
There are a few cool and interesting episodes within the pages of Shattering the Ley, yet they remain too few to truly make an impression on the reader. The lack of depth, the subpar characterization and the absence of any engaging characters, as well as the snail's pace found throughout the book; all these shortcomings prevent the tale from ever getting off the ground. As readers, we are forced to simply go through the motions, hoping that something--anything--will finally take place and make reaching the end worthwhile. But it was not to be. . .