Trains are delightful and long reads on train more so. This time, I was breaching one of my personal rules again, reading through “The Traverser’s Memoirs”, by S.M.Y Rafi, an author I kind of know personally. It is a hazy territory, going in to review a book written by a friend, or an acquaintance. There is always this chance that you will sound a tad bit harsher, that one tad bit wrong and the friendship will come to a stop. This has happened before. But, thankfully this time, I can safely say, in my honest opinion, no less, that this book is good.
Being good, doesn’t translate into being infallible. However, for a person who is writing his first book, for something that has been printed hastily, “The Traverser’s Memoirs” might as well be one of the best books that could come out of the situations. The history and geography has had a lot of imagining, a lot of work behind it, and it shows. The rich culture showcases itself in moments and the way the research has been done right down to the last detail is something that you admire. Overall, you admire the story too, it’s a fabric wound around the same thread that brings along a lot of fantasy, and yet, in its own personal way it stands out, and how brilliantly.
And Epidrae is brilliantly etched. There is something personal about this huge expansive world with different cultures. Often the author sounds boastful in the foreword, but, as a fellow author I do understand. The world building is something that really resonates well for me in this book.
Yet, it has its problems. Before the story even resonates, we’re presented with a huge info dump, which makes the story a hard one to pick up. Now, this isn’t “Lord of the Rings”, which pulls you in from the first moment into its world, and then introduces you to the rich tapestry of the world, here the history is laid out in a manner. When you have done so much work on this, it is easy to appear as a show off, and I only wish that it didn’t happen this way. This happens twice over in the story too. Another problem is exposition, more often than not, action scenes seem to be a matter of more “tell” and much less “show”, to the point when I found myself wishing that I could just skip over them.
Just compare the action to the emotional scenes and you will see the difference. While, written the same way, the emotional scenes triumph. And whatever, Mr. Rafi is, he is not a mere peddler who is begging to be noticed, there is some considerable talent in parts of the book; some pages where, I felt like I was actually getting into this universe, something that I rarely experience now-a-days with fantasy.
The characters are brightly etched, even though I choose to wish for something greater in their depictions, in the way they interact. One of the largest problems with this book is the dialogue, which appears uneven throughout. Some places, the dialogues are beautifully woven, but, in others, they are so mechanical that it affects the reading of the story. It is a shame because I believe that good dialogues could have enhanced most characters to another level.
So, yeah overall, it is a good book, and I would honestly read it again. However, it does need editing, and a careful deliberation over the good and the bad. There is a lot of meat that can be cut away from the book, as there is story that can be added into. Personally speaking, this is something I would pay money for, even though it won’t be in my list of “immediate buys” from a book store. However, simply because of the scope, the world and the research done into the world, this is a recommended reading.
Rating – 3/5