Monday 27 April 2015

Review: Inda by Sherwood Smith

Indevan Algara-Vayir was born the second son of a powerful prince, destined to stay at home and defend his family's castle. But when war threatens, Inda is sent to the Royal Academy where he learns the art of war and finds that danger and intrigue don't only come from outside the kingdom. [summary from Goodreads]

I read Inda this month as part of the #INDAclub readalong hosted by Sam over at Novels and Nonsense. Inda is the first book in the series and we will be reading one book each month and discussing it over on the Goodreads group and using the hashtag on social media. I am quite new to fantasy, not having read too much of it before, and although this series is quite intense I thought I'd just dive right in as I'm open to anything when it comes to reading.

At first I found Inda quite difficult to really get into because the world-building and character introductions in the first few chapters are quite intense and there's just so much to take in. Sherwood Smith kind of throws you in at the deep end and I found the best way to deal with this is to just go with it, I found that I did end up picking things up more easily as I went along. The many different characters, family names and titles were quite confusing at first but as the book went on I found the character development to be one of the strongest and most well-developed elements and by the end of the book I felt that I knew a variety of characters pretty well and was heavily invested in their development and relationships.

I would definitely say that this is a book that you should make time to sit and read for longer periods, dipping in and out doesn't really work as the world, politics, culture and characters are quite complex and can only be properly appreciated when you are immersed in the narrative. I found that I enjoyed the book so much more when I could just devote an evening to getting lost in it.

One thing I really loved about this book was the representation of women. Although patriarchy exists within the world of Inda, women are seen as strong, powerful and useful in their own way. Instead of merely being wives and property, they are warriors and defenders who are not only able to look after themselves but they protect their lands and homes with their own brand of defensive fighting and warfare. The relationships between women are strong and secretive and unlike pretty much every other book ever, the relationships do not revolve around men and discussing romance, they are far more concerned with bigger things such as politics and magic. The women in Inda are strong and clever, they are often privy to knowledge that the men don't even comprehend. I really loved the strong female characters in Inda and look forward to seeing more of this in the rest of the series.

One small issue I did have to begin with was Smith's habit of flitting around to different perspectives extremely often, sometimes within a single paragraph. This is something I'm definitely not used to when reading and for the first part of the book I found myself having to go back and figure out whose perspective I was reading. However this did improve as the book went on and as I got used to it I found it to be a very interesting technique as I enjoyed the chance to experience lots of different characters' perspectives.

The small niggles with confusing character names and narrative technique can be completely forgiven for the excellent plot and the strong characterisation. The world of Inda is just so vast and interesting and at times I found myself completely lost in the world and unable to put the book down. If you've read and enjoyed the Song of Ice and Fire series and are ready for something perhaps more intense then I would definitely recommend getting into this series.

In May we will be reading the next book in the series: The Fox. I've ordered mine and am impatiently waiting for it to arrive so I can dive back into this world. If you would like to join the readalong, feel free to do so by joining the Goodreads group here.

Have you read Inda?

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