Tuesday, September 11, 2012

book review: the sail weaver

image source: Muffy Morrigan's website
This is a seriously overdue book review for Muffy Morrigan's The Sail Weaver.  The author had been recommended to me by Three Ravens Books, a publisher in the Seattle area, a representative of which I had met at the Steampunk Empire Symposium back in April.  At that time I had offered to review anything they were working on.

I received The Sail Weaver about two months later, finished it off one month ago, and have only gotten to writing this review now.  I feel so lame.

The Sail Weaver is best described as a pseudo-fantasy/futuristic adventure novel that tells the tale of Tristan Weaver, a skilled Master Weaver who, with the use of magic, weaves sails that make airships fly through space.  When the Navy asks him to make the largest set of sails ever made for the best naval vessel ever designed, Tristan and his beloved Weaver's Guild, as well as the dragons with whom they work, are subjected to intrigue, plotting, and attempts on their lives as they try to save human and dragonkind from the devastation caused by the deadly Vermin, a relatively unknown race of evil creatures who exterminate all who come in contact with them.

Morrigan is quite skilled in her ability to make a story flow.  She doesn't recite the history or workings of her made-up fantasy world of airships and dragons in the narrative in one go- instead she inserts important information in a gradual, simple way, helping the reader understand the futuristic world of her novel.  Rather than give us all of the information of her world in one go, she feeds it to the reader when necessary, keeping the reader's interest without confusing them.  The politics between the Weavers' Guild and the Navy are also intricate and yet simply explained by Morrigan, making one feel that they have a grasp on why some of the intrigue in the story occurs, without giving out necessary information that would confuse readers or detract from the story.

There are also so many little details of daily life in this futuristic fantasy world subtly inserted into the narrative- such as the merchant areas of the space stations and the items for sale there, as well as Tristan's preference for spiced tea in the afternoons- that just help place the reader's senses into the story, making them more invested in this world of Morrigan's creation.

What most impresses me with The Sail Weaver, however, is Morrigan's obvious homage to late 18th/early 19th century naval history.  The "space ships" are modern versions of open ships-of-the-line from the Napoleonic era would have been- as are the uniforms and the ranks of the crew, with a few necessary deviations.  As someone who loves Napoleonic naval warfare, I was very appreciative of her presentation of the space Navy as similar to the great naval contingents of the Age of Sail.

There were a few weaknesses with the story.  One of them was the numerous grammar mistakes I received in my copy of the story- mostly a plethora of unnecessary commas.  I don't know if that is common with the print version, as I may have received an earlier version of the story than the one that finally went to print.  Another weakness I noticed was that, despite Morrigan claiming that feelings of loyalty towards the Weavers' Guild was, at best, iffy, it seemed that most characters were not "middle-of-the-road" about it.  Either they strongly supported the Guild unflinchingly (like Riggan, Thom Barrett, and Christopher Muher) or they vehemently opposed it (like Stemmer and Fuhrman).  A little iffy-ness on the part of the main players in the novel would have been more realistic, in my opinion.

Other than those weak points, The Sail Weaver is an enjoyable novel of space battles and magic, with a fantasy world that is both creative and yet not presented in a way that bogs the reader down with unnecessary details.  

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