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KING OF SHARDS by @mattkressel is one of the most ambitious fantasy novels out there. By ambitious I don't mean in terms of page count or numbers of characters or even epic sweep (though it does have a mind-bogglingly large scale.) Rather, it's gutsy in its conceptual reach ...
... taking as its starting point a number of concepts from Jewish mysticism and then applying a science fiction writer's eye to them. What happens, Kressel seems to be asking, if we take these mystical concepts seriously and apply them to the physical universe as we know it? So..
... we get an imagined cosmos that feels, to this reader, as deliriously weird as C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, Olaf Stapledon's STAR MAKER, Roger Zelazny's Amber, or Michael Moorcock's multiverse. We see here a fractured cosmos of which our Earth's universe is the most "whole ..."
... while many others suffer in a kind of metaphysical broken-ness, which Kressel develops in the example of Gehinnom, an arid dangerous planet in another universe where humanity exists but never seems able to rise above the level of warring city states. Into this world comes ...
Daniel Fisher, a person of such inherent virtue that his existence helps support the integrity of the cosmos. Trying to portray such a character as a portal fantasy protagonist is probably Kressel's most ambitious move. As the story develops, the bare bones of the plot follow ...
... a hero's journey / portal fantasy sort of narrative, but it's distinctive in that we come to understand that *healing* and *building* are the central concerns of the story. This is not to say that it's a gentle story -- it's often quite brutal ...
... and disturbing, but in a way that underlines the theme of the broken nature of this reality. It's also written with a certain distance ... this does not feel like a didactic story (as does the Space Trilogy) but as a kind of thought experiment, taking seriously the concept ..
... of the 36 lamed vavniks who sustain the cosmos with their virtue. I get the feeling the author is holding several cards to his chest, as most of the big-scale setting information is given either by demons or by a less-than-trustworthy sorceress. I hope that we will someday ..
.. get to see the full Worldmender Trilogy that the author had planned. So ends what was meant to be a short note of appreciation -- but there was just too much to say!
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