Scarlet Odyssey: Promising new series by a promising new author

Scarlet Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsScarlet Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsScarlet Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi

Scarlet Odyssey (2020) is the debut novel by C.T. Rwizi and the beginning of a new series, RED PLAINS. It’s an epic fantasy set in a world based on sub-Saharan Africa, featuring a group of young people who might have the chance to stop an evil plan — or might unwittingly put it in motion instead.

The central point-of-view characters are Musalodi (“Salo”), a young man who wants to learn magic even though his people forbid that study to men; Ilapara, a young woman who rebelled in the inverse way, by becoming a female warrior, and starts the novel working as a mercenary; Kelafelo, a woman whose village is destroyed by a brutal warlord, and who apprentices in sorcery in the hopes of taking vengeance on him; and Isa, a spoiled princess who will have responsibility thrust upon her unexpectedly. Also among the POVs are several shadowy characters who go only by titles rather than names, and about whom we learn more as the novel progresses.

The easy comparison here is to George R.R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, which similarly alternates among multiple third-person narrators, each of whom has their own character arc while also giving the reader a look at what’s going on in their part of the map. (Rwizi also employs a Martinesque level of violence, so … you have been warned.)

C.T. Rwizi

C.T. Rwizi

The magic is interesting and has a futuristic bent to it. Some aspects of the system seem like straight-up magic, while others appear to be more like computer programming, and there are “tronic” animals that are part machine, whose origin hasn’t been explained yet.

The multiple POVs and the magical terminology are a lot to take in at first, especially since the POVs don’t intersect until later and the connection between them is not immediately apparent. There’s a learning curve to it, and it can be confusing in the early going, but ultimately rewarding. And some of the things that seem mysterious are that way on purpose. There were a few plot points I was sure I just “didn’t get,” and was pleasantly surprised when twists and reveals late in the book made them fall into place.

There’s a fair amount of setup at the beginning — which is probably for the best, considering all the info that’s coming at you — but once Salo is sent on a journey and leaves home, Scarlet Odyssey becomes difficult to put down. Danger is everywhere, and Salo will need to learn more about himself and his magic on the fly.

The main plot is left to be resolved in a future book or books, but Scarlet Odyssey finishes strong nonetheless, with a couple of big “Wow!” moments that make the end satisfying even though it’s not the end. I will definitely be reading the sequel. RED PLAINS is a promising new series by a promising new author.

Published in July 2020. Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter. Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action. Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe. On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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3 comments

  1. Jana Nyman /

    Definitely adding this one to my TBR list. Thanks for putting it on my radar, Kelly!

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