It took a very long time to settle into this book. The writing was action-packed and engaging, but it felt like a step was missing for a very long time. I actually set it aside (figuratively speaking) and read at least one other book before coming back to it.
Either I was incredibly inattentive for a long time to more than just the name of the series this book opens or there actually was a step missing: it took me forever for the light bulb to go off (so to speak) that the world on which the story was set literally had no sun. Seriously, I had no idea. (In my defense, the Kindle galley I had just used “Quartz” in the listing – no series name. There was a book synopsis just inside the cover – but opening the book for the first time goes straight to the table of contents, a couple of pages after.) Then suddenly the switch flipped and I understood why magical quartz was so valuable, why all agriculture took place in caves filled with said quartz, and why no one ever commented on what a lovely day it was. So – maybe I missed something else. This might, however, have been one time when a prologue, or an excerpt from an ancient text, or a glimpse into a history class (“It’s true, children! Once upon a time there really was a big ball of fire in the sky, providing heat and light…”) or something like that… Or maybe I just missed it. Well, no, actually, if it was subtle enough an explanation that I missed it entirely then it was too damned subtle – I’m not that careless a reader…
Anyway. With that little contretemps and the almost grudging revelation of not only how the society of the Sunless World (which, you know, has no sun) works, but also of anything at all about our hero Rafe, Rabia Gale strikes me as a writer who has no patience with readers who need their hands held. I don’t, usually – in fact, I usually have no patience for writers who hold their readers’ hands. But there is a vast span between the infodump-and-recap style of storytelling and the standoffish “you’ll find out eventually” style of Quartz.
Once it did engage me, though, it sucked me in pretty thoroughly. The characters were kind of great. Rafe is just a lot of fun to read about – a man who is equally willing to dance with fire in the name of duty or to dance at a ball, a man with a mission and some very entertaining friends. If and when I seek out the next book in the series it will be largely because of Rafe, and his sister.
The writing (as opposed to the storytelling) was the main saving grace. It is confident, clear (if not always in the ways I wanted: “Wait, there’s no sun?“), and sharp.
“So, what do you think of that?” said Coop, with the air of having pulled a gold coin out of Rafe’s ears.
Dark figures ran back and forth in futile frenzy, silhouettes outlined in flame. Some heaved bucketfuls of water at the fire. It was like fighting off an army with a pair of sugar tongs.
I have to say, I enjoy a world where there’s an elevation called Bubble Mountain.
My only quibbles – apart from the whole “Seriously? No sun at all?” thing – were one instance of too-here-and-now dialogue (“It was some people in the cabinet who got on Father’s case”) and one question which might be easily enough explained away: in lieu of, you know, celestial sources of light, candles are much in use. And at least once specific mention is made of wax. Wax means bees. Bees, generally, (to me at least) mean flowers. From what I gleaned, very little precious space is used growing flowers; most room and resources have to go toward producing food. So … Beeswax? Not sure about that.
That being said, I am very much looking forward to the next book.
The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.