Author: Sherwood Smith
Length: 624 pages
Final Verdict: 3 out of 5. This is the second time I have read Inda, first in an eponymous quartet of novels, and I enjoyed it a good deal more than the first time - I could keep track of the political intrigues, this second time around! The abrupt changes in point of view still make me dizzy, however.
Slight spoilers in the summary.
Sherwood Smith introduces readers to her sprawling world through the eyes of Inda, the ten-year-old second son of a prince. Inda discovers that he is not meant to remain at home, training to serve as the defender of his elder brother’s kingdom as second sons before him have done, but is to train beside his brother at a royal academy. It is here that Inda realizes his natural ability for leadership—an ability both coveted and feared by those in power.
Inda, too young and too focused upon his training and his academy friends to understand the conspiracies overshadowing him, is driven into scandal by friends true and false alike. Faced with the choice of dishonouring his family or dishonouring himself, Inda goes, instead, into exile. And there, upon a merchant ship, robbed of his identity and surrounded by pirates, Inda turns his back upon his childhood and begins a journey of self-sacrifice for the land and people he loved… and lost.
Inda is a rather lengthy introduction to Sherwood Smith’s world and story. It does not read like a prologue as first books in a series sometimes do; the story is fully and intricately developed and satisfying as both a stand-alone and an introduction. Smith relies on a vast host of characters and intersecting tales to weave her novel, and the complexity of the names and titles sometimes reaches the epic proportions of a Russian novel.
I’m still bothered by Smith’s method of guiding readers through the story, because it involves point of view hopping—a lot of POV hopping. Smith will sometimes jump between POVs within the space of a paragraph. Seeing every side of her subplot can be illuminating—the POVs of the antagonists are as well represented at the protagonists—but it can also prove confusing.
The world of the Marlovans, the people to whom Inda belongs, is fascinating. Smith challenges social concepts such as the role of men and women in society, and the inherent differences between the sexes—it’s nice, because I felt that I was reading about another world and another time, rather than about medieval England dressed up in fantastical trappings.
I like how Smith uses magic—readers are eased into a sense of it. It is neither a plot device (yet) nor a foreshadowed deus ex machina, but a domestic triviality in every day life—it keeps things and people clean, from dishwashing to vanishing the dead. And yet magic has layers. There are not so many as to make it impossible to understand, but enough to give it a sense of mystery readers can look forward to seeing expanded upon in the later books.
For all its length, Inda is a quick and enjoyable read. Smith’s characters, well-drawn and interesting throughout, are friends and companions by the time the book ends. My interest in their future has pulled me into the second book of the series, The Fox.