Posted Feb. 13, 2013 by Benjamin Liles
Thomas Locke has done it again with his new book, Merchant of Alyss. While the book starts off a little slow (okay, purely my opinion), it soon develops into one romp of a story. Trees that uproot themselves to defend their master's home. However, for Hyam, who is not a farmer as he intended to be, in Thomas Locke's Emissary, life is a bit more complicated. In reading the book I find that Hyam isn't one who looks to receive accolades or awards for what he does on behalf of the realm he lives in. His residence is in the city of Falmouth Port, where him and his wife, Joelle enjoy life.
In Emissary, Hyam is a confident in his farming abilities, simply wanting to farm. Some how he comes into his own, going from farming to becoming a mage. Here, in Merchant of Alyss, he's thrust rather immediately to find out where an unknown source of magic has taken place. He is sensitive to the changes in the air around him; kind of like the scent of beef stew bidding someone on to seek the source of smell out. Hyam is thrust into a situation, even though he's still recovering from battle wounds in Emissary. Milantian scrolls appear in Falmouth Port where his help is needed to understanding what they are and why it appears there's no text on the scrolls.
Now, he's on a new quest. This force quickly surrounds him, his wife Joelle, and a small band of friends into both unknown territory and onward to the furthest reaches for an unknown enemy.
I feel it is more than just my duty to represent this book in its rightful light. I loved the book even though I never had a chance to read Emissary. Why did I love a book where I know nothing of the primary character from the previous book? Simply because I see and feel exactly what Hyam does in this fantastic book. Here's a small taste of Merchant of Alyss on page 22 onto page 23: "Hyam turned away. He waited until a turning hid him from view, and then he scratched the scars that ran from his right wrist to his breastbone. The physical wounds had healed well enough, but defeating the crimson mage had seared away Hyam's arcane talents and shattered his orb of power. The losses left him bereft in a manner that none could see and only a handful even comprehend."
The next small part is after a small break on page 23: "It came to Hyam like a scent carried on a war-torn wind. But there was no breeze within the city walls." You quickly get the feeling he's hunting down whatever magical force assaulted his home.
While Hyam takes responsibilty of doing any certain task, when he doesn't fully understand why he is taking such an action, he shows a leadership ability. He does this by taking command of any given situation that arises. It never once comes across as if there's any shifting of gears, and perhaps there is, but you get a sense that Hyam is going to do what he is in tracking down who attacked his home and why.
When it comes down to one specific theme the book shows is Hyam's love for others in his party. He doesn't just show this for his wife or for their constant companion pet, Dama. This theme of love also shows itself in his care of others, whether it is for their safety or in his decision for a choice he's made. And that's another part of this theme: Hyam constantly is on the alert for any kind of change.
Even though it seems scenes shift quickly and not allowing an image to coalesce, you get the sense there is always action going on. It stands that the reason for this is to show how any character's choice affects others, even if where they are at is a breif setting. Sometimes the setting needs to be brief as they move onward at a brisk pace.
There are pivot points regarding scene changes and what happens next; however, it's constantly done so for the effect of that constant movement. There are some who want a scene to be fully painted, or even drawn out, but oftentimes brevity is wonderful so that the reader isn't overloaded on details. Why get bogged down in scenes and descriptions when what is being read takes that part of your senses to indicate action? I don't enjoy being bored to death in details. I believe that was Thomas Locke's point. I enjoy writing as much as he is and I want to enjoy what I read. That's why Thomas Locke writes the way he does. Write what you know and what you will read yourself.
Conversation is always considered action. While it appears that the characters can and often do finish the thought of another shows that these people have been around one another. They care for each other. They have once before been companions and that's how they remain with one another. Who doesn't enjoy a close knit bond with their friends? Hyam and his company prove that very well.
My Final Thoughts
I rate the book at five out five the way I do not just because I enjoy the way Thomas Locke writes. This is my third read of his work. The first was with Trial Run of the Fault Line series, the second being Double Edge also in the Fault Line series, and now with Merchant of Alyss. This author, in my opinion, knows hiw craft, has done this for many years, and weaves his stories as wonderfully as Stephen King does his.
Usually, when I find an author I truly enjoy I tend to want to read all their work. This same can be said of what I've liked so far from Thomas Locke. And that's another point I want to make: Thomas Locke is a pseudonym for Davis Bunn. Under his rightful name, Davis has written scores of books. One of those books I keep wanting to read over and over is Lion of Babylon, and more recently The Fragment. Okay, that may be a bit of a shameless plug, but that's my point. I like what I like and I'm not going to be afraid of stating my opinion.