Karavans: No significant action for 350 pages

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Jennifer Roberson KaravansKaravans by Jennifer Roberson

Karavans is the story of a country that has been overrun by a foreign nation of savages, and as the people start to flee the country, Alisanos, the demonwood on the border of the country starts to come alive and take back parts of the land. The story follows several different characters as they deal with the disruptions to their lives caused by the invading Hecari and the awakening of Alisanos.

Jennifer Roberson is a talented writer who creates intriguing characters. Karavans is a beautifully written novel that evokes a visceral reaction from the reader at several different points. Roberson has created an interesting world populated by demons and demi-gods. The relationship between the magical Shoia and their demon keepers is especially fascinating.

However… have you ever watched a movie that starts with a long tracking shot? The camera sweeps over the battlefield and shows the different sides of the conflict, and by the end of the shot you have seen the savage invaders, and the mysterious stranger, and the mystical priestess, and the humble farmer family, and the noble soldier, but nothing has happened yet? That’s what reading Karavans is like. There are so many different characters and so many individual storylines to introduce that no significant action occurs for the first 350 pages.

I normally prefer character-driven books, but that assumes that the characters are actually driving the plot somewhere and, unfortunately, this karavan is standing still. In the last 75 pages, Roberson finally manages to get the action going. Between leaving several important questions unanswered and ending the book with almost every major character in turmoil, it is obvious that this book was not designed to be a stand-alone novel, but merely to serve as the prologue to the Karavans series.

But, even with this pace problem, the book is well written. So, because of the high quality of the writing, and the assumption that the preamble is over and the plot has started to advance, I am intrigued enough to read the next book in the Karavans series.


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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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