Reviewer Praise for IRON CHAMBER

A Review of IRON CHAMBER OF MEMORY from BZ, a commenter over at Vox Popoli.

I’ll take the opportunity to write a somewhat longer review of Iron Chamber of Memory.

Summary: Things starts out seemingly a bit roughly, but reader, keep going. The pieces all fit together quite perfectly and the book actually ended up being some of the best fantasy I’ve read in recent years.

Some mild SPOILERS for a little bit.

The book begins in a seemingly somewhat disjointed manner — first a prologue, then a jump to an exploration of a strange house on Sark. The chapters jump in time without telling, the characters are strangely blank but old-fashioned and even change names now and then, and the story defies the expectations one might have of conventional SFF.

Yet it all turns out to fit together with extraordinary precision in the end, from the fantastically suitable cover and onward it is a bit of a masterpiece of writing, but only as the story progresses do you nod at why and how things were earlier in the book. The main characters are under an enchantment bringing amnesia, hence the blankness and time. And who has plotted this enchantment and how do they break free and what do they do then? It does not happen in the way one might have expected, but the actual resolution is far deeper than I expected, perhaps even profound. Brilliant and touching, and right before an understated denouement that returns us to more ordinary life, this book also provides that rare element we once sought: Sense of Wonder. With this said, I shall not delve further into what happens.

End SPOILERS, such as they are.

What is also so lovely about this book is that its roots are not in second-hand readings of the scions of Dungeons and Dragons, but mostly in actual medieval and ancient sources, from the amethyst to the various opponents and indeed the moly. This brings a depth and power to background and characters being described that is frankly unmatched in the last few decades. Consider merely this simple observation: How many modern cod-medieval fantasies even include God? Yet actual writings from the middle ages always do, God and his servants struggling against the dark forces. There are some authors who get it right, often older ones such as Poul Andersen, but how true do these modern fantasies actually ring when they seldom or never get even this perhaps embarrassing but fundamental fact right?

Wright has previously written in this vein, work such as Parliament of Beasts and Birds and One Bright Star to Guide Them. To some extent, one thinks of CS Lewis when reading this, but (apart from being stylistically more versatile) I would say Wright surpasses any categorization as a ‘sub-Lewis’ in this regard. Instead, I would say Wright could honourably be called a virtual Inkling. He would, I imagine, be warmly welcomed into that society as an equal if he somehow stepped into the Bird and Baby at the right time.

Apart from the usual SFF readership, I think this book actually would make an excellent choice for at least some Christian YA/teens or older. The themes may be considered mature by some, but are as far as I can tell handled with impeccable care, certainly far more considerately than does common YA. Cheers to Castalia for publishing it.

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