Here’s what it comes down to though: while I’m reading Wheel of the Infinite, I’m in Duvalpore, and walking through the Marai. I completely believe in the world, in the characters and their struggles and triumphs. It takes an excellent writer and excellent writing to be so apparently effortless, all the while creating an engrossing story and background.
Plus there’s Maskelle, who is not your typical fantasy heroine, who is smart and gutsy and damaged in a way that doesn’t lead to endless angst but a quiet determination to put things right. I can’t think of another character that’s quite like her, because her vibrant personality leaps off the page. No cookie-cutter heroine here, just a flawed but also awesome human being.
And there are political shenanigans which, as previous discussed, are one of the things I love in fantasy books. I wish we had gotten to see a little more of the Celestial Emperor, because I feel like he has a fascinating story too. I wish we had seen more of everyone, because I want to know all their stories.
There’s also: a traveling group of actors, a quiet but completely swoonable romance, lots of understated humor, a quickly-moving plot, and a puppet with a curse on it. And a world of jungles and rain, of breadfruit and tea. I believed in the textures of it, the everyday details that make it feel comfortable and lived in. I loved the way that we see it both from the inside, through Maskelle’s point of view, and from the outside, through Rian’s.
Wheel of the Infinite was actually the first book by Martha Wells that I ever read and I fell in love with it at first sight (well, duh–just look at that gorgeous cover!). I’m so glad that I started here, and so glad that it holds up well to re-reading. I enjoy Ile-Rien quite a bit, but it’s Wheel that I’ll come back to again and again, like visiting an old friend.
Book source: public library
Book information: Avon Eos/Harper Collins, 2000