Margaret is the only child of famous inventors. The Roil has laid siege to their city for thirty years, and it’s through their inventiveness that the city survives. But their big experiment goes horribly wrong.
Cadell finds David alone on the street and saves him from a fate similar to his father’s. Cadell is an Old Man, born thousands of years before, cursed with sanity and an unquenchable hunger. He may be the only person able–and willing–to save the remaining cities of Shale from the Roil.
Medicine Paul is a victim of his own political scheming, and in order to survive must make a deal with the enemy.
ROIL by Trent Jamieson at first blush seems like your standard end-of-the-world fantasy novel. Instead we get dark fantasy with steampunk and zombie apocalypse flavor; he does his best to break those cliches and create something fresh in a fantasy-horror mash up. For the most part he succeeds…and in other ways falls disappointingly short.
Jamieson gets points for inventiveness. He sets up a world in turmoil, where city-states dot the landscape. Despite decades of knowing about the Roil, their own political infighting results in a people woefully unprepared for the Roil’s sudden aggression. Cities fall. People die. They seem incapable of saving themselves. Add to this a varied cast of experience, naivete, and suffering, and we get an interesting world that’s exciting and creative.
ROIL is narrated in limited third person, with occasional scenes in omniscient; this writing indecision will tell you right there that the author still has some things to learn about his craft (despite other published works). We have the four main characters, but Jamieson includes other scattered viewpoints, such as a random creature or bug or the soon to be deceased–sometimes switching around within the same scene. This lack of consistency affects clarity throughout and I found these side viewpoints (among which I include the confusing chapter headers) to be irrelevant to the story itself, if somewhat flavorful to the setting. At the least they are distracting. At the worst pointless filler that affect pace and reader patience when time could have been better spent on detailing a world and its history without the info dumps.
It didn’t help either that it took almost the entire book to feel a connection with the characters. Don’t get me wrong, they are well-drawn, but they’re difficult to like. David is addicted to Carnival and lives in a stupor; the mysterious Cadell drags him along for reasons that makes no sense as the boy is a burden. Margaret must escape the fall of Tate, but can’t grieve so goes through the motions of moving on–but with a chip on her shoulder. Medicine Paul…even by the end I’m not really clear on the purpose of his story line.
ROIL moves full-tilt. I like a quick-paced story, but ROIL often suffers from too-quick transitions between main characters; this makes scenes short and difficult to settle into a character’s situation or personality and affects flow detrimentally. It also means that the setting and characters lack the establishing details necessary for readers to visualize the world itself. The world was interesting, and Jamieson would spend time on some lovely descriptions, but at other times gloss over important information. Again a lack of consistency.
Ultimately ROIL suffers from movie to book syndrome–only without the movie. It would probably translate well on a movie screen, but without a consistent narrative of clues that include setting, description, and viewpoint, this is a book of ideas without what it needs for a successful delivery. By the abrupt ending I had grown frustrated because I didn’t get what I needed to love the characters and care about their plight.
Recommended Age: This book will appeal to teenage boys 14+; parents should be aware that a main character is addicted to recreational drugs, but not without consequences
Language: Maybe a dozen instances in the entire book
Violence: Death and blood throughout, but not excessively gruesome
Sex: Barely referenced
I purchased the Kindle edition ($2.99, down from the $7. I bought it several months ago). I’m not sure about the print edition, but the Kindle version had more than its fair share of formatting and editing errors.