'The Weavers of Saramyr' - Book Review

Chris Wooding is a British author who became well known writing children's books. I think The Braided Path - the sequence of three books that starts with The Weavers of Saramyr - is his first adult work.

The country is Saramyr, and the problem is "The Weavers." They're a group of people who've made themselves indispensable in this very large country by making long distance instantaneous communication possible (and other things, like influencing people at a distance or even killing them) in an otherwise late-18th century technological environment. Unfortunately, if you employ them, you also have to keep them supplied with whatever they want - which is often little boys to rape and kill.

And from this springs my first major problem with the book. The Weavers are presented as the great evil (he's not being remotely subtle here), but they've insinuated themselves into this society. Fine. But he proceeds to present a number of people who employ Weavers as being fairly heroic (most notably the empress), and - despite the "necessity" of their powers - I find it hard to accept people as "heroic" who think it's okay to sacrifice several-to-many young boys per year to keep their Weaver happy. It's morally repugnant and underlies the premise of the book: this society is built on this horrible behaviour and many of our "heroes" are complicit in this behaviour.

Wooding tries to build up this big and politically complex country, with many nobles controlling portions of the land. He wasn't terribly successful. I compare it to Sean Russell's The Initiate Brother, and Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion, both of which build up complex political landscapes with elegance and ease. Wooding's efforts pale by comparison.

The writing's not that great either - I've chosen a sample of text. Prior to this he's already pounded home the fact that Mishani's family is suddenly on very bad terms with the family of the scholar she wants to see. And that she's missing an important meeting to visit this scholar:

His face turned from annoyance to puzzlement as he saw who it was. Before he could protest, she laid a finger on her lips and slid inside, shutting the door behind her.


'My, my,' he said. 'Mistress Mishani, daughter of my master's newly embittered enemy. I take it you have something very important you need, to come see me like this. And miss the council with the Empress too.'

Mishani looked over the old man with an inner smile that did not show on her face. He always was quick, this leathery, scrawny walnut of a scholar.

So this is your proof of intelligence? Something any person with two brain cells to rub together could have worked out knowing the circumstances? While re-iterating something you've already told us ...

The writing isn't as ponderous or as predictable as Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series (which I read relatively recently), but his poor attempts at political complexity and the moral morass his characters stand in - without the author even knowing it - put me off enough that I won't be reading the remaining two books in the series.