This is not the easiest book for me to write about. I'm really torn about this. That's not exactly true. I want to be torn about it. I spent a lot of time hating this book, and the rest wanting to hate it (and coming pretty close). I took a break on page 81 to write a healthy paragraph in my notes, which included, "by page 81 or so, I really had no idea what the book was about other than some guy inflicting horrible abuse -- physical, metaphysical, mental, spiritual, psychological, and any other kinds possible -- on children. All of whom, for various and sundry reasons are devoted to him." There had been at least 4 distinct places by that point where I wanted to stop reading. But I received the book in exchange for a review, so I had to press on. It was within 10-20 pages after that rant that I found something I enjoyed.
If you're reading an almost 400 page book and the first quarter is so terrible you're only reading by compulsion? It's not a good book. No matter how good that last seventy-five percent is.
And it was pretty good. There's a man, who's moved on beyond humanity after gaining great knowledge -- after 60,000 or so years, he has pretty much gained all knowledge. You know that line about sufficiently advanced science appearing magical? Well, imagine that, but sufficiently advanced as to be on Doctor Strange's level. For reasons unexplained for a very long time, he took a bunch of kids on as apprentices -- teaching each of them one (and only one) discipline so they'd be as knowledge able as he is (and the methods he uses aren't exactly endorsed by the NEA, John Dewey or even The Barnum and Bailey Circus). After a few decades or so, these children are grown, can almost not remember their old life -- and the master disappears. Which is when things start to really fall apart. Oh yeah, there's a postal carrier and a special forces agent who's probably more skilled than Jack Reacher. And it's almost impossible to explain how they're involved.
The worldbuilding is fantastic, really, you've seen little like it. At least 3 of the characters are keepers. Plotting is careful and intricate (at times slow, at other times so fast you'll have a hard time keeping up). I can't tell you how many times it zigged when I thought it was going to zag. And each zig was completely believable and generally mind-bending. All in all, skillfully written, skillfully told. Still, not for me.
I'm not sure how to rank this. If going off of my reaction to it, I think I'd have to invent a new ranking system, something lower than no stars. But if going off of actual merit -- it's probably a 3.5-4 (maybe 4.5 star). Read it at your own risk. I received this from the people at Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. They probably wish I didn't.