I’m having a bit of a dilemma. What should be my focus when reviewing a book?

Jennifer Fallon’s Medalon is the cause of my cundundrum. I can’t help but think if she submitted it to a workshop or something, it’d be torn to pieces by writers who’ve learned all the rules, as I have (or am trying to). There are some very strange feeling point-of-view shifts, and the story jumps back and forth in time in a way that can be distracting. There are little details that don’t work, like people swimming out to a ship and throwing a grappling hook up over the rails to board (can’t be done). So technically, it has issues.

And yet I sit here in a sleep-deprived fog because the book had me up until 6am and 3am respectively, for the past couple of nights. I loved it. Couldn’t put it down. So what matters? That I could see some rules-breaking, or that I enjoyed the read?

Happily I’m just a dumb blogger and I’m not getting paid to make these kinds of decisions, so I’m going to go with that fact that it was a really fun read.

Medalon is a small country ruled by “The Sisterhood of the Blade,” an athiestic governing body. Oddly, none of the sisters carry blades, instead they are supported by The Defenders, the all-male army of Medalon. To the north is Karien, ruled by The Overlord, who prays to the god Xaphista, aided by a cadre of zealous priests. To the south lie Hythria and Fardohnya, both of which worship the Harshini and the ‘pagan’ gods.

It’s an interesting world. Existing somewhere between the gods and the people are, or were, the Harshini, a magical race who can see and speak to the gods. When the Sisterhood came to power, they wiped out, or drove out, the Harshini. Karien and Medalon have an uneasy treaty, one condition of which is that the Sisterhood wipe out any pagan worshippers that might show their heads.

As our story begins, rumors of coming of The Demon Child are spreading. This child, half-human, half-Harshini, is suppose to herald the return of the Harshini and gods to Medalon. Pagan cults are springing up all over Medalon, and Karien is threatening to cross the border to stamp them out if the Sisterhood doesn’t do it themselves.

Enter R’Shiel and Tarja, the son and daughter of the ambitious and ruthless Joyhinia, a member of the ruling Quorum of the Sisterhood of the Blade. Medalon follows their story.

And, if you’re in the mood for a complex novel with intertwining storylines, Medalon isn’t it. The book is pretty strongly focused on R’Shiel and Tarja, and while there are of course sub-plots, this isn’t the next ‘Song of Ice and Fire.’

But Fallon delivers a rich and interesting world and characters who are likable (or hateable in a good way, as the case may be). The pacing is brisk and every chapter leaves you hungry to know what happens next. Even though some parts are quite predictable, the ride is still enjoyable, and none of the characters are stupid. No one is going down into the dark basement to check on that odd noise while the homicidal maniac is on the loose, if you know what I mean. Some of the characters accept huge challenges to their belief system a bit too easily, but again, that’s one of the ‘problems’ with the book that would get it poor marks with a literature professor, but which really didn’t get in the way of me enjoying the hell out of it.

Fallon’s extremely enjoyable Second Sons trilogy was a ‘bigger’ and more ambitious tale, and had a more ‘professional’ feel to it. As a wannabe writer, it has been interesting for me to compare her first work to her later novels. She’s gotten better than she was when she wrote Medalon, but that doesn’t prevent me from giving Medalon two big thumbs up. Fallon is on my short list of ‘must read’ authors and I expect to enjoy everything she produces. We’ll see.