The Reader of Acheron – Walter Rhein
This is a very complex dystopian fantasy, which is a good deal more than it appears. It is a story of self-discovery, the search for freedom and what that means, and a picture of an ignorant and dark society in which reading and self-improvement are forbidden. The characters are intriguing, especially Kikkan, an escaped slave, who is trying to survive in a world he knows nothing about. Freedom is terrifying and yet glorious and, unlike most slaves who are drugged into docility, his mind is sharp and he craves learning, but like a child he is untutored and the journey of his mind and his experience is enthralling. That said he kills, both symbolically and physically and asks questions no one will ask. Quillion, too is interesting, a rebellious mercenary who experiences servitude and prejudice, holds a contempt for stupidity and also must find his way in this dangerous world. He approaches gaining his power from a different direction.
Power is key, and its definitions are rapier sharp in this book. More than a fantasy, more than a dystopian novel, this is in part a social commentary. Don’t let that put you off, as this is also a well-written adventure complete with swords, monsters, heroes and villains and with a dark humour and intelligence throughout.