It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so for folks who don’t know, this is where I discuss the first chapter of a novel and make some predictions about what it’s going to be like!
I bought a copy of Orope: The White Snake from the author at Can*Con, and so far, I am really, really impressed. Orope is a Bronze Age-styled fantasy, and from the first page, the difference in tone and feeling from a medieval or Victorian fantasy is amazing. The first chapter follows one of the Rhagepe, whisperers to the gods, as they perform a divination ceremony. As a Bronze Age scholar, it’s fascinating to see how much historical and archaeological thought has been put into this; the ritual to my understanding is fictional, but all the factors of it – divination through the selection of bones, predictions from dreams, matriarchal religion – are influenced by studies of the Bronze Age Aegean. More than anything, too, the sense of fear and helplessness in the face of the gods and nature is very true to the time period.
I also appreciate so far that while the influences are clear, the Gogepe and Rhagepe don’t seem to be direct analogues for anything. It would be easy to simply make analogues for Crete, Egypt, Greece, etc. but there’s clearly been a lot more work put into the worldbuilding than that.
From a character perspective, I found myself attached to Rashma rather quickly. It’s a shame that she doesn’t seem to be prominent past the first chapter, but if this is how richly every character in Orope will be characterized, I’m sold.
The downsides: while there’s a learning curve to any secondary-world epic fantasy, the one for Orope is a little higher than most. Between keeping up with the rituals of the Rhagepe, keeping track of the seven or so characters in the first chapter and figuring out what exactly is going on, it can be a little confusing. The emotional importance of each factor of the ritual is made clear, though, which helps carry the feeling of the chapter even if some of the details are hard to follow.
I am super excited to read the rest of this, and while I miss Rashma already (RIP, Death lady) I can’t wait to see where this goes.