Saturday, August 18, 2012
Duchess is an orphaned teenager eking out a living in the fog-shrouded city of Rodaas. Her world is turned upside down when she receives a coin and her foster parents boot her out of their home. The coin also represents an opportunity; the chance to join the Grey a secret-society of spies and thieves. The task set before Duchess is more perilous than she first realized but she is determined to join the Grey for the security it represents and the chance to learn what really happened to her family.
The world-building in this novel is impressive, with Rodaas’ politics, history and religions considered in depth. Rodaas was a city discovered intact by the current inhabitants after the previous occupants were removed by a mysterious catastrophe. The inhabitants are strictly divided along class lines with bloody revolutions shifting the situation somewhat in recent history. More impressive is that the authors managed to incorporate this information in a way that adds to Duchess story rather than taking focus from it, neatly avoiding the problem of 'info-dumping'. The greatest strength of this novel is the focus on duchess story and her character, her hopes, dreams and fears are well considered. This focus ensures that the action remains fast-paced throughout.
Overall The Duchess of the Shallows is a fast-paced, focussed and well written novel. 8.25/10.