Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells. ★★★★
Wheel of the Infinite is a stand alone fantasy novel. Every year the Wheel of the Infinite is created. The Wheel of the Infinite is one with the world – it represents the world but it also is the world. A change to the Wheel will change the world. And this year, a black storm of destruction has appeared on the surface of the Wheel, and nothing the priests do can remove it. To find the answer before the final ceremony must take place and the changes made permanent, the exiled priestess Maskelle is summoned back to the city of her birth.
Soon into the book, Maskelle meets Rian, a barbarian swordsman, and the story switches between their POVs. In a lot of ways, The Wheel of the Infinite is a mystery story. While the book may alternate POVs, Maskelle is undeniably the main character. If this were a straight up mystery novel, Rian would be the Watson to her Holmes. The two of them get together fairly quickly, and there’s pretty much no angst to their romance.
As I’ve come to expect from Wells, the setting is vivid and imaginative. There’s a distinctly non-European cast to it, and something about it reminds me of Southeast Asia. There’s carved stone buildings, canals, and towering, mountain like temples.
Something I really liked about The Wheel of the Infinite was the heroine, Maskelle. She’s older than your typical fantasy heroines, at least in her forties. She’s got a history, and not all of it’s good. She’s powerful, strong willed and intelligent.
While Maskelle was the most stand out character for me, I appreciated the others as well. I wonder about Rian’s life in his home country, which doesn’t sound pleasant. I also loved the humor provided by the presence of a group of entertainers that Maskelle’s traveling with.
If you are interested in The Wheel of the Infinite, the first chapter is available for free on the author’s website. I found it a solid, well written fantasy novel that I would recommend, particularly if you’re looking for a powerful and older female lead.