Book Review: Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells

We’re going back to the basics here. I wanted to get a feel for what standalone fantasy novels would be like, so I picked up Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells. When I came across this book, I like the picture of what looked like a black woman on the back (why she wasn’t on the front, when she was clearly the main character of the book, I have no idea. Well, I do know, but I’m just going to shake my head and let the Angry Black Woman rant about it). And any fantasy book that has a black woman on it, I figured, was worth reading.

Ah well. I can continue to hope.

The book focuses on a woman named Maskelle, who is considered the “Voice of the Adversary”. She meets up with a swordsman, Rian, who instantly latches to her for no reason. they travel to a city where an ancient rite is threatened. Aliens from another world are trying remaking the world in their own image, and Maskelle is called by the Adversary to stop it.

On the whole, it felt like a short story overbloated with too much information. Lots of infodumping and telling without showing. She also chooses odd things to focus on that don’t pertain to the story. For instance, during one scene, we get a long history about a group of people watching the show, the Mahlindi. We never actually see the Mahlindi again, but we know why they act the way they do. I get the feeling Wells did this to show how ‘diverse’ her world was, but the infodumping got old real quick. I wound up skipping so many pages, the stuff I was supposed to know got lost in the useless details.

It isn’t until we get to the middle of the book that the story picks up and all the infodumping fades to the background. Wells does a good job balancing the book between Maskelle and Rian’s point-of-view, and there’s one scene where the two POVs merge seamlessly–when Rian is fighting off assassins while Maskelle in spirit form goes after the person threatening the rite. Wells did a nice job of balancing the two POVs by putting Maskelle’s in italics, signifying her being in the spiritual world, while Rian’s remained normal in the physical world. It split the action up very nicely without confusing the reader on who was doing what.

Maskelle’s power comes from the Adversary; a spiritual being that’s considered a god of sorts. Throughout the book, it speaks and acts pretty fickle. But towards the end of the book, we learn something unexpected–something has happened to the Adversary to make it go mad. That was a very nice twist–to have a higher power you pray to go insane makes the ‘oh crap’ factor go up significantly. I really enjoyed reading how Maskelle reacting to her gods insanity…

…until I saw what they did to save the god. And I thought Hey, that’s the same thing I wrote in a fanfic once. Except they had more fun doing it. So sadly, after a good buildup, the book ended on rather a wussy note. How disappointing.

I think if a lot of stuff got cut, this would’ve made for a sharper, cleaner story, but then, I don’t think it would’ve been a book. I am quite disappointed with it, and I’ve wasted nearly three months trying to get through this book. I give it 2 wheels of the infinite out of 5, just because of the POV mashup and most of the middle of the book. And if our Lord in Heaven ever goes insane…well, let’s not think about it.

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