Slate Ahn and the Books of Knowledge: Part I, Graham M Irwin. A fantasy epic with pirates, wolves, shipwrecks AND political corruption

Graham M Irwin Holly Ice Review Slate Ahn Books of Knowledge Legend of Alm

I was gifted this book free of charge on a read for review policy.

Graham Irwin knows how to create a wondrous world full of raspberry coloured bumble bees and exotic plants or wolves which decide to bond to individuals of good merit. He creates habitats and environment as well as original culture.

Of course, world creation is a huge part of fantasy and his achievement here does a lot to ingratiate himself with a fantasy audience. I must also say that the illustrator for the cover did a beautiful job.

Holly Ice blogHowever there are still issues with his writing, particularly in the prologue.

There is a lot of unnecessary description of the Ahn family and their daily lives that adds nothing to the plot; this is things like what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and how they act year round. This back story is not necessary to the novel.

In fact, I believe the prologue could be cut significantly. It could do with opening on page 8 with ‘The tradition bound people of the village observed in the workings of the universe an order…’ This chimes in with the ideology of the villagers and within a paragraph the narrative focuses on the Ahn family. It also gets all the major tradition issues in without the boring parts of what they eat for breakfast. Plus, it is a catchier first sentence (and the major tension of the opening is introduced within a few paragraphs!)

This would also get around the fact that Ahn, Alleste and Aelioanei are introduced close together at the original opening. 3 unfamiliar A words that close together just makes my head spin! In fact, place names beginning with any other letter would be a favour: even the world is called Alm! (I was glad that the western half of the island had place names beginning with other letters and wonder if there is a rational reason behind all the A names or it was just coincidental).

The poetic introduction before the prologue is beautiful. I would only change one like: substance bore distinction to nothingness. There are too many long words here which confuses the complex concept the poem is aiming for.

There is also a tendency towards the beginning of the novel for long, convoluted sentences. However this soon evens out as the narrative continues and the action becomes much more immediate.

Characters are mostly realistic, if a little wacky (but this is allowed in a different culture with different morals and values). I only noticed one seeming slip from the alternate world of Alm in the narrative. This is where a character said ‘such and such a city’ which hit me as a little gossipy in tone and too modern a phrase compared to the rest of the narrative. I also noticed one ‘YOUR wife’ which would be better expressed as ‘your wife’ even if it is bellowed.

However these are mostly small sentence-level problems. My major problem with the book was that it lost its direction. The protagonist began by needing to find his family and, about a third of the way into the book, he finds the reason for their disappearance. However, instead of immediately trying to find them he loses focus and goes to school for a year, seemingly for no reason.

From here, political corruption, mercenaries, imprisonment, pirates, shipwreck, fishing and many hikes through endless (and different coloured) forests ensues. I cannot fault the author on his world building here. In fact, I felt the fishing and boat details as well as the multitude of forest habitats were very well researched. Even the stimulants created seemed realistic and well-integrated into the society. My problem with this is that there is no focus.

Holly Ice blog Graham Irwin Slate Ahn

The core thread of the novel was the boy trying to find his family. This is lost and put on hold. At this point, there is no core reason for me to keep reading. I want to know about the boy and his family, not a random thread of events. I feel that the author has tried to fit too many fantasy adventures into the book without connecting them to the main thread of the novel. Even by the end of the novel, the boy has still not found one single member of his family!

So yes, I grew frustrated with this book plot-wise but this does not lessen Irwin’s world building prowess. If you like books that meander through a new, colourful world and are content to read on despite a long-winded approach to plot goals then this book will be a good read.

The sea is bubbling with new hollow jaws, the floors are writing with white grubs that crawl in the dark and the forests hide wolves that can be friends for life. It is, in essence, an open sandbox to a new, bright world.

I give ‘Slate Ahn and The Books of Knowledge Part I’ a robust 3/5.

If you would like to give it a go for yourself, The Legend of Alm, Slate Ahn and The Books of Knowledge Part I can be found on Amazon (UK link and US link)

As always, I can be found on twitter: Holly Ice

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  1. Hi there i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anywhere,
    when i read this piece of writing i thought i could also make comment due to this good post.

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