Talk about your unexpected endings! Twists, turns, and “I didn’t see that coming” really describe the action in Aidan Harte’s book, Irenicon – Book I of The Wave Trilogy. The cover consists of what appears to be a group of rag-tag knights on horseback riding out to defend a kingdom, led by a Joan-of-Arc type character carrying a banner. So naturally I expected more of a medieval-type fantasy. Not nearly so!
Family factions of the city of Rasenna spar and battle for supremacy. Words and family names seemed very Italian, very Mafia-like in their tone, violence, and passion. In Rasenna, it’s all about loyalty to your group and family. Factions are further separated by the river, Irenicon. The ruling empire, Concord, created a Wave that plunged the river through the center of Rasenna, effectively permanently severing the north from the south. The ensuing fracturing of geographical cohesion magnified the already squabbling family clans and weakened any resolve to combat Concordian rule.
Concord is ruled by an Engineering Guild, the very same masters of the school of thought that created the Wave. Young Engineer Giovanni is sent to by his guild into the heart of Rasenna to build a bridge over the Irenicon. Rasenna has for its champion Sofia Scaglieri, the heiress to the ruling Scaglieri clan. Sofia and Giovanni’s paths collide while the bridge is being built. With Sofia’s combat training and Giovanni’s engineering skills, chances for the success of the bridge rise along with Rasenna’s steps towards rebellion against Concord.
Harte has really created a unique world here, rich in history and culture. The geography feels similar to our real world map, but has been altered slightly to create this new universe. The characters are also well thought out and complex. From Sofia, a coming of age teenager who is plunged abruptly into isolation and leadership, to Giovanni, the young engineer with a mysterious past who is desperately trying to prove himself. There are many supporting characters who are just as satisfyingly drawn out for us. Harte adds some magic and fantasy elements into the mix along with some sweet and interesting violent battles. The very creepy dungeon with its moving cells and mysterious energy pain beams was very reminiscent of the setting of the movie The Cube. Wonderfully inventive and gruesome at the same, while the seemingly indifference of the captors was chilling.
Finally, the only thing I could have used in this book was a glossary! I don’t speak Italian and don’t know if any the words were real or just Italian sounding words, but I wouldn’t have minded some definitions either way. Understood the words somewhat by context, but the glossary would have helped a bit and since this is a trilogy I can only imagine these words won’t be one-book wonders.
Great book! Can’t wait to read Book II!