Chris Wooding has once again branched out and attacked another flavour of fantasy. This time the story brings the reader a sophisticated beginning to what promises to be a mysterious, cutthroat, and complex trilogy: THE BRAIDED PATH. Both the physical and social settings are richly described and beautifully rendered throughout. The Weavers of Saramyr introduces us to a nation torn apart by sickness, an empress who is all out of options, survival against the odds, and unlikely freedom fighters. The Weavers of Saramyr is no less than gripping from the first page through to the last.
There is a sickness in the lands of Saramyr. It manifests in deformed animal and plant life across the nation. Farmers call the soil evil, wildlife is slowly dying out, and children are born hardly human at all. By order of the Weavers, said children are summarily and ritually killed — they can often, even from birth, be dangerous to themselves and those people around them. This plague on the land has advanced for an unknown amount of time, seeming to manifest more severely as the decades go by. Saramyr is ruled over by the blood empress from the glittering city of Axekami. She has a court full of families vying for her place as well as a rising sense of mistrust among nobles and commoners alike. In a summer home, a family is brutally killed by otherworldly beasts. On a remote spot on the map Weavers continue their ever secretive rituals. Where these stories meet is where The Weavers of Saramyr occurs.
The setting of The Weavers of Saramyr is rich, deep, and wholly satisfying. The Weavers of Saramyr occurs in a Feudal Japan-esque nation that is both rife with internal struggles as well as united against outside foes. The time spent on setting is well-used: Wooding builds not only a nation, but a society and an intricate hierarchy with its own taboos and pitfalls at every turn. I greatly enjoyed the immersive nature of the setting Wooding presented as an active backdrop to the story unfolding.
Something I often love about Wooding’s stories is my inability to predict outcomes. The Weavers of Saramyr is a perfect example of this. I loved coming across world-changing, story uprooting plot-twists and looking back at how perfectly they were set up. The mysteries of Saramyr run deep and the tantalizing few that get solved in this first installment make a strong case for reading on. There is a clear depth to the characters, setting, and story that lend themselves to world-changing revelations and twists.
The only weak points of The Weavers of Saramyr for me were two small instances of rocky pacing. I found myself thinking in two cases that the story could move along more quickly and smoothly rather than dwell so far away from the tasks at hand. This is not to say that these areas were not important to the plot, quite the opposite, but they did soldier on just a touch long for my taste.
Finally, The Weavers of Saramyr presents an incredibly well thought out cast of characters. Every single person exists in a well-rounded, complex way. The sense of depth and plurality of motivations is continuously engaging and insightful. No one is wholly good or evil, no one can be reduced to any one trope, and no one is safe.
The Weavers of Saramyr takes place in a richly realized world, is populated by deep characters, and features a devilishly satisfying set of plot twists. What The Weavers of Saramyr also encompasses is a dark — at some points, downright chilling — tale of sickeningly grotesque evil. From beginning to end this story had me hanging on every scene for sometimes vastly different reasons. The events told in The Weavers of Saramyr range everywhere from joyful to heinous, mundane to magical. It is a strong opening to what is undoubtedly an engaging and eloquent trilogy.
The Braided Path — (2003-2005) For adults. Publisher: This is the story of the ancient empire of Saramyr — an empire that rules over a land overwhelmed by evil. The evil comes from within the empire’s center: the Weavers, a sect of male magicians close to the throne, intent on killing any child born with magical powers. But now the Empress has given birth to just such a child… and a revolution is brewing.