As I may have mentioned in the past, one of the great advantages to my job is that I’m often offered the opportunity to read books early (and one of the disadvantages is that I don’t always have time). In this particular case, I got to read Harry Connolly‘s The Great Way trilogy a little while before the Kickstarter crew and then the world in general. And I was, to put it modestly, chewing at the bit for the chance.
It lived up to–I hesitate to even say expectations. I like Harry’s writing, so I was fairly certain that in general I would like the trilogy. Beyond that, I knew its pitch: it was epic fantasy about what happens after the fall of an empire. Beyond that, I had no idea what to expect.
I don’t think I actually expected to spend 950 pages alternating between gasps of surprise, exclamations of oh shit!, the occasional meep (“What’s wrong, Mommy? What happened in your book?” asked my son when I actually meeped at something), more gasps, more exclamations of oh shit!, and the occasional urge to rise up and shout “HUZZAH!”
Seriously: this is epic fantasy unlike anything I’ve ever read. Lots of epic is about building the empire; some of it is about what happens when the True King Dies. The Great Way is, hand to my heart, about what happens when the whole damn empire falls, and it’s amazing. Even if I had thought of this book, I wouldn’t have done it as well: Harry resisted, time and again, story threads that I’m not sure I *could* have, and that’s not only hugely admirable from a writer’s point of view, but it delivers a completely different story than me-the-reader kept anticipating.
Not only is the story fresh, but the characters are extremely well realized. In particular, one of the protagonists, a 15 year old girl, has some very strong, believable relationships with other girls, which just thrilled me to the bones. It’s not especially often that a young female character does not inhabit the role of The Girl, and The Only Girl at that, so my hat is off to Harry for that alone, even if I hadn’t thoroughly enjoyed the series beyond that.
Harry also resists tying up all the loose ends: the ones that need to be, are, and the books are more poignant, and reinforce the fallen empire theme, for it. Did I *want* some other answers? Yeah, absolutely, but I was surprised at how satisfying the story was without picking up every thread. (Besides, I can live in hope of sequels. I don’t actually think the story needs them at all, but I can live in hope anyway. :))
They weren’t quite perfect; I believe Harry envisioned The Great Way as one book originally, and it’s very much one story across three books. Books one and two end on cliffhangers; assuming the first chapters of book one catch your fancy, you will want all three already in your hot little hands before you reach its end. The first and third books seemed to have a little more independent story arc than the second, which suffered a bit from middle-book-itis in that regard–but I got too engrossed in the third to remember to look for a different place that *I* might have cut it at, so it clearly wasn’t all that distressing.
Overall, I’m just really, really pleased with the trilogy. I really think Kickstarter supporters are going to be thrilled with the books that will land in their email soon, and I’m looking forward to the trilogy’s general release, because I hope it’ll catch fire. Harry has done a really good job here.