What happens when evocative writing and compelling storytelling collide and fuse together? You get a powerhouse novel like C.L. Murray‘s A Facet For The Gem, a tale unfolding in a generously described and developed world.
We enter this world through Morlen’s viewpoint. We find him struggling to make his way among people who have rejected him, living in a land in the midst of unrest and on the verge of far worst. An outcast, Morlen will gradually uncover his true identity and discover how his nascent yet to be unveiled power may provide the key to arrest the dark forces threatening to overpower two kingdoms.
Before I go on, I will note the things that bothered me, namely point of view hopping and frequent, somewhat lengthy backstory exposition through dialog. As most readers won’t notice these nits (or indeed, might expect them in this genre), and given how the writer’s fluid style glides right over these imperfections, I will move on to say there’s much to commend in this story.
First and foremost, the narrative comes through with a strong, often lyrical voice. I must confess it took me a chapter or so to fully accept and immerse myself in phrasing that seems more appropriate for a book written in the 1800s. Yet, it fits here. It not only fits, but it wraps, drenches, and infuses the narrative with an ethos and mood that firmly establishes it as other-worldly. It also comes through in dialog without sounding ponderous and wooden—quite the unusual achievement.
As for the story itself, the characters and their struggles flow with and support the plot. The author does a good job of presenting us with an array of characters with diverging, yet intersecting interests and conflicts. The ongoing and roiling struggle for power and dominance in the midst of war frames the protagonist’s journey to discover both his place and power. Adding deep and rich backstory to the present, the author also builds the tale on a strong foundation.
Often, fantasy stories feel shallow, all about the, well, fantastical events unfolding now. But not here, where a well-grounded and developed past feeds the present and is, for the most part (minus the dialog exposition) laid out well and without ponderous encumbrance.
Yet, in the area of characterization, I must offer one regret: “where are the women?” I asked more than once. But for one minor character, and one promising character who at the fifty percent mark is more or less relegated to a background role (she literally flies away after we’ve just met her), Facet gives us a too heavily male-dominated world.
Eventually, this regret turns to relief, then excitement, when that princess returns to the foreground with a forcefulness and strength of will that lifts the story to new heights of conflict and renewal. If a tiny bit of the regret remains, it only does so to wish we had met her far sooner.
In terms of plotting and story advancement, I never felt the story drag. Events pressed forward at a good clip, intensifying the swirling conflict of a war-torn world. Those battle scenes leading to the climax come fast and vivid, thanks to the author’s descriptive powers.
Though I am glad–very much so–that I gave Facet a try, I usually stay away from fantasy stories. I often find myself struggling to find something fresh, a story that doesn’t feel like rehash or warmed up leftovers from a thousand stories before it.
If I chose to ignore other aspects of the story, I suppose I might be tempted to say the same about Facet. There are magical swords, power-dispensing talismans, flying eagles, fiendish beasts, the super dark villain, space-transcending portals, and other tropes one has come to expect in a fantasy romp. And yes, in the end, we encounter the romantic entanglement that should have perhaps bloomed or suggested itself sooner to more fully satisfy.
It is on that basis (plus those nits) that I do not give this novel the full 5 star treatment, even though in the end I recommend it as a story fantasy fans will thoroughly enjoy. And if you want writing that soars and inspires, prose that chooses every word with care and driving determination, you would do well to pick up this book and fly on eagles’ wings into a world the author has thoughtfully crafted for us.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars