WARNING! PATHFINDER (Amazon) is not a fantasy book, it is science fiction. I repeat. PATHFINDER is not a fantasy book, it is science fiction.
I know what you’re thinking. Wait a minute. It totally looks like a fantasy book. Yep. I read the premise, it sounds like a fantasy book. Yep. Doesn’t it take place in a fairly medieval setting? Yep. You know, horses and wagons, swords and magical type stuff happening? Yep. I mean doesn’t it even have a sword on the cover for Pete’s sake? Yep. And you still think it’s a science fiction book? I do.
Am I going to explain myself to you? No I am not. Don’t be ridiculous. It would ruin the story. And let’s be clear from the get go here, this is a fun story. Orson Scott Card is one of those writers who has written brilliant, wonderful stuff (ENDER’S GAME, SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, TREASON)… and then he’s written some stuff that pretty much sucked. He’s VERY hit-or-miss. So when I read the premise for PATHFINDER I was simultaneously intrigued and a little wary. I decided to check it out (even though it’s a YA book that clocks in at over 600 pages—seriously, 600 pages? YA?). In the end, I’m glad I did. This is the Orson Scott Card that I love.
The story follows Rigg, a young Cardian protagonist who’s had an interesting upbringing (being raised in the wild by a man he call’s father) and who’s good at basically everything. The real fun thing about Rigg is that he can see paths. He can see the paths that people, animals and any other living thing have taken. Depending on their brilliance he can determine how old the path is and even who/what made it. As you can imagine, this is very useful for a tracker. He can see animals that have crossed his way. He can find the most frequented paths and even follow things around using the most recent routes. Pretty cool stuff.
Soon enough Rigg’s world is turned upside down (again I won’t tell you how) and he is sent on a journey across the world in search of his mother and sister whom he didn’t even know existed. Along the way he meets several other people, some of them having strange powers like himself. I really don’t want to get into it any more because the discovery of this world and how it works is so much fun.
As usual of Card’s good novels, his prose is above reproach. His writing style is clean and effortless. This is the type of book you loose yourself in. I was easily able to sit and forget everything but Rigg and his adventures for several hours. This is true of any of Card’s best books. I’ve always been very focused on them while I was reading them. He writes in a way that makes you want to turn just one page more, and then just one page after that until the book is done. It’s only at the end that you sit back and reflect on what you’ve read. Some of Card’s stories have stuck with me (the ones I mentioned above) and others haven’t.
This is one those stories that sticks with the reader. It’s the first book in a series (I believe I heard mention of a three book series), but that shouldn’t put you off. This story comes to a satisfying conclusion. There are questions left unanswered (so many questions) but at the same time the characters have concluded a very definite story arc and are about to begin a new one. I wouldn’t say that you could read it as a complete stand alone, but I wasn’t ready to beat Card up for leaving me hanging right in the middle of a story (think Pat Rothfuss, who I love, but I need more Kvothe! I digress, sorry).
The only problems this book has are the same as with any of Card’s books. Rigg is brilliant, he’s wonderful at everything he does and you never get the sense that he is in much danger because his foes are never worthy of him. Kinda Mary Sue. He also draws conclusions about certain very key elements of the story based on very flimsy facts. Like I said, it happens in all of Cards books. Think of Ender. If you had a problem with him, then you won’t like Rigg. If on the other hand you thought Ender was one of the cooler characters ever written, then this is certainly a book for you.
I’m glad I gave PATHFINDER a shot. Is Card always going to hit it out of the ball park for me (or for you)? Probably not, but I’ll certainly be picking up the rest of this series.
- Recommended Age: 12+ although it is a bit complicated in parts. Still, I would have loved this as a kid.
- Language: None to speak of really
- Violence: Nothing major here either. Fights and stuff, but nothing gruesome.
- Sex: None