About the Book
The world of Lehbet is under siege. The threads that divide Lehbet from the mirror world of Heled are fraying, opening the way for an invasion by an alien enemy that feeds on human flesh.
Travys, the youngest of the queen’s twin sons, was born mute. He is a prince of the Chanteuse, nobles who channel their magic through their voices. Their purpose is to monitor the threads and close the paths between the worlds, but the Chanteuse have given themselves over to decadence. They disregard their responsibilities to the people they protect—all but Travys, who fears he’ll fail to wake the Chanteuse to Heled’s threat in time to prevent the destruction of Lehbet.
Within the palace, intrigue creates illusions of love where there is none, and when Travys’ own brother turns against him, he is forced to flee all that he has known and enter the mirror world of Heled where the enemy has already won. In Heled, he must find his true voice and close the threads, or lose everyone that he loves.
I purchased this book to read and review.
Novellas are hard for me to review because novellas are, by nature, short. A good novella will usually make me mad because I won’t want said novella to be novella length. A great novella will make me forget that it’s a novella and I will be incredibly Hulk-like upset when it is over, usually saying, “Well, son of a bitch. I forgot this was 100 pages. Writing something this good that lasts 100 pages is cruel and unusual punishment. Don’t we have rules against torture in the Geneva Conventions?”
That’s pretty much a direct quote from when I finished The Broken Road, after having forgotten that I was reading a 100 page novella.
Usually I try to avoid reading novellas for that very reason. I don’t like entering weird HULK SMASH mindsets due to the length of a book I read. However, Teresa Frohock wrote The Broken Road, and after reading a lot of her work, I’ve learned that she’s an author that makes me sit down, shut up, and pay attention.
The problem I often have with novellas is that they are so short. Unless they are already tied to a world or story I’m familiar with, I think the length of them really limits authors in regards to their ability to fully create a dynamic world and the people in it.
Enter Teresa Frochock, the woman who manages to somehow build an entire world, charged political system, complex characters, and an attempted coup of the government into 100 pages. If authors had superpowers, hers would be, well, writing. The Broken Road proves how much a person can pack into a novella if a writer carefully crafts their story. Not only are all those elements in the novella, but they are all believable, and fleshed out in such a way that it made me forget I was reading a novella.
The protagonist, Travys, is a character that is easy to like. He is earnest and honestly wants what is best for his kingdom, and during the first bit of the book he is absolutely and obviously ignorant that anything dark or mysterious is happening around him. His ignorance regarding the upheaval he is about to face is a fantastic tool that Frohock uses to put her readers on the same footing as Travys. Travys is a nice balance of elements that could easily hold him back against the internal strength of a giant. Furthermore, it was quite delightful to see how Frohock used those aspects of Travys’s character that could hold him back as a strength against the struggles he faced. For example, his ignorance regarding the situation that had been developing around him kept him from prejudging everything that was happening, which gave him fresh eyes to see into the heart of the matter. Furthermore, his ignorance regarding the wider and deeper political and personal problems rising up around him is the fundamental reason why the reader and Travys have the exact same amount of information throughout the book. It’s quite fun to discover what is happening as it is happening.
The ruling class has become corrupt through decadence and a high lifestyle, and everyone else is becoming more and more marginalized and impoverished. Historically this has happened before, many times, the most notorious incident would be the French Revolution, “Let them eat cake!” and all that. This situation is no stranger to us, but it is a rife backdrop to insert a fantastic, poignant mystery and a rather quick coming-of-age tale as one man battles against everything he didn’t know he knew to do what is right.
The plot moves at an incredibly fast pace, as it has to with a novella of this length. There is a ton of ground covered, and I was absolutely amazed by just how many twists and turns Frohock could pack into 100 pages. Some of them I expected, but others really blew me away. There is a nicely balanced mixture of magic, political corruption, class struggle. All of that, combined with the big baddie that Travys is learning about, and facing, adds up to a nice mystery that can, at times, be pretty creepy as well as thought provoking.
The magic system absolutely fantastic, and Frohock manages to use it in conjunction with the mystery incredibly well. Furthermore, novel isn’t about just one world, but it’s about parallel planes of existence, and Travys ventures from one into the other and back again. Talk about ambitious in a novel. It’s incredibly impressive how Frohock crafted such an intricate plot, world, and magic system in the short amount of pages she used, and she managed to do it all in such a way that it felt effortless and incredibly natural. There were no infodumps or points where I thought, “Well, I bet this would be explained better in a longer novel where the author has more time.” No, Frohock built this incredible, detailed, complex world and she managed to do it in 100 pages.
I’m honestly amazed by that.
The Broken Road is one of those novellas that made me absolutely furious because it ended. And I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I have ever said something like that about a novella. It’s short and sweet and has the same emotional pull, well crafted characters, complex and surprising plot, and intricate, believable world as anything I’d find in a novel. The Broken Road shows just what novellas can achieve under the care of a master level wordsmith.
Delicious dark fantasy and an unforgettable journey through an unforgettable world, what isn’t to love?