Of all the fantastical peoples and races, creatures and magics, I've read I've never read a book that even contained a gnome let alone displayed one as its main character(s). I haven't even seen the movie Gnomeo and Juliet about garden gnomes.
So you can imagine my intrigue when I was offered a copy of Rough Magic [US] [UK], book one of the GnomeSaga, by one of my friends here on Goodreads. I was both intrigued and highly interested to see how a world of Gnomes works together. It turns out, it works pretty well.
Almost immediately we're introduced to some creatures that can only be compared to something out of China Mieville's imagination. They're strange, weird, gross (like really icky gross), and completely captivating. I had to read more.
After a compelling prologue, we jump into the bulk of the story of Niksabella, the tinkerer, and her brother Nikselpik, the magician/addict (to bugging, another highly imaginative, yet repulsive creation). This is where the story slows down quite a bit. It's interesting, but it felt like a lot of that could have been cut out to make it more streamlined. I was also confused about the ages Nikselpik and Niksabella. He was really old but she seemed young even though they grew up together. I mean it's believable, but it also felt like she was treated young. I know it was going for poor, but I couldn't shake the young feeling too. This was however, nowhere near a game-changer, just a passing thought here and there.
Even through the slow opening, the characters are interesting and it's never to the point of being too slow that you wouldn't want to continue. Niksabella is a tinkerer who invents useful items, but who is stopped at every turn by the powerful guilds who control patents. Her POV introduces some of the magic, but more importantly the level of technology. The world is actually technically advanced in certain ways although for the most part it is more medieval and you can see why when powerful people are threatened by the likes of Niksabella and her obviously important work.
As a small note (the smallest of side-notes), the technological progress and magics are probably intended to be unique to gnomes, but nothing really stood out or was explained as being particularly gnomish or being due to gnomes as opposed to what any other race could be doing.
Nikselpik is another great character who is hard to pin down at first. He seems irresponsible and untrustworthy, but sometimes he surprises. He was probably my favorite character because he was so diverse and his characterization is well done. I wanted to keep reading him every time.
As far as gnomes go, I'm definitely looking forward to reading more. Kenny Soward has created a unique and fascinating world that will both surprise and astound you. If you're looking for something new and completely different, look no further.
3.5 out of 5 Stars (recommended!)
Note: I have to add that for an independently published book, this was extremely well edited, especially when it comes to line edits. Kudos to Nine Worlds Media. I counted maybe two or three typos/spelling errors throughout the entire book and any large house has a couple errors every other page.
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