I won this book in a give away and when the author contacted me asking for my address, I said that since the postage to Australia would be quite a lot of money, I'd be fine with an ebook version, but she said she wanted to send me a paperback. A week or so later, it arrived. I read the blurb, then put the book down, thinking it sounded interesting. I didn't think I'd get around to reading it for ages, but being a paperback, it sat on the coffee table shouting, read me, read me, so after dinner I picked it up to have a quick perusal of the first few pages and I and didn't put it down again until I absolutely had to go to bed. You guessed it--I loved it. It grabbed me from page one and held me until the wonderful end.
The Sundered is fabulously different to anything else I've ever read--the mark of a strong new voice--and a totally unique story that had me completely enthralled.
The story takes place on a world flooded with black water that is deadly to humans. People share this world with the Sundered, magical creatures humans have enslaved. The Sundered are dying out, but since there is no arable land and they are the only ones who can go into the water, they are the ones that produce food. Once the Sundered are all gone, the humans will eventually die out.
Harry Iskinder is a salvager who paddles around in a small skiff looking for the Hope of humanity, a possibly mythical object that he hopes will save humans from extinction. No one knows what exactly it is or what it does, but Harry discovers that finding it will give him a choice; either the Sundered survive and humanity ends, or humanity lives for a while but the Sundered are wiped out.
The story is written in a snappy way that immediately drew this reader in. Harry is trying to live up to his family heritage of the ones who search for the Hope. He's tense and terrified of failing to adequately lead his travellers, the gang that travels with him, and when he manages to claim a first tier Sundered, he is as surprised as anyone. Did the Sundered allow himself to be caught? And if so, why? Or does Harry simply have more power than he thought? Either way, Aakesh, his first tier Sundered is an extraordinary being and the conversations between him and Harry are brilliant.
I loved Gorish, the cute little Sundered. His simple ways were endearing and his love and loyalty for Harry, more than anything else, made me empathise with the Sundered. Aakesh was drawn so well, I could almost feel this incredibly powerful, noble and mysterious character. Other than these two, the only other character we really got to know (or needed to know) was Harry, who quickly became out of his depth. Sometimes I wished he would calm down a bit, and it would have been nice to have seen some kind of maturing in his character over the period of the story, some of Aakesh's calm intelligence could have rubbed off on him. Also, I didn't quite get why Bek was blowing up cities or how his weapon worked, so maybe that could have been clearer.
I really enjoyed the author's descriptions of the perception of the Sundered and the concepts behind it, and the interrelational politics between Harry, his friends, his Sundered and his mentor were very well done. All in all an excellent book that I highly recommend to anyone who likes science fiction or fantasy.