It is with a large amount of sadness that I say that this is one of the most disappointing reads I have ever encountered. Irvine has for many years been an author I have held in high esteem, if not one of my favourites, for his Three Worlds saga. Apart from being the first book I ever bought, The View From the Mirror series had such a profound effect on me (I even did an independent study on it in high school) and so I was really looking forward to a new work by Irvine.
To put it bluntly, this book felt like it was written by an inexperienced teenager. Nearly every element of Vengeance was so clumsy and inconsistent, I had to pause at least once every two pages to roll my eyes or wrinkle my nose with distaste. I even completely gave up a quarter of the way through and after a week's break, had to force myself to finish it.
Rix is by far the most perplexing protagonist in the history of everything. Even by the end I had no idea what his character actually was. His reactions and reasoning are so ridiculous in some scenes, it sounds like he is being narrated by a six year old girl.
Many of the books problems come from the pace. In two pages, Rix lusts after another character, swears to remain chaste, meets said character, leers, becomes revolted by her and then randomly rides away, leaving his companion behind for no discernible reason other than it helps the plot along. Absolutely nothing about the characters is precedented or follows through other than Tobry's 'mortal fear of shifters', which Irvine mentions no less than fifty bajillion times.
There are even many situations where the characters leave a climactic and dire situation, which should leave them emotionally and mentally if not physically wounded, and yet mere hours later they are chilling on the couch with wine. Absolutely zero consistency in anyway shape or form.
Don't even get me started on the gaping plot holes, not the least of which is a glaringly obvious oversight in the chronology of things which leaves a good sixty year gap in a part of the backstory.
Vengeance in some ways is very similar to Irvine's previous work; he definitely knows how to stick it to his protagonists, getting them in sticky (that's putting it lightly) situation again and again without reprieve. However, while I think this really worked in the Three Worlds saga, it was overkilled in Vengeance to the point where it became exasperating and unbelievable.
The story itself, while improving dramatically in the last half when elements finally started coming together, was unnecessarily complicated in parts and vastly underdeveloped in others. The terminology introduced in Cython was ridiculously confusing and more than a little naff - actually a lot of things in this book were naff ... like naming the volcanoes 'the vomits'.
The greatest problem I had was that in fact I believed the antagonists to be in the right and began rooting for them ... and it wasn't done in any kind of clever 'there are no clearly good or evil' way either, it was just that the protagonists were clearly on the side that started the whole thing and were in the wrong.
Were there any good things about Vengeance? I have to admit that by the last half I was a lot more invested in the story and it became generally easier to read, although whether this was because it had actually gotten better or that I had just become accustomed to it, I'm not sure. Tali is a character is far more consistent and interesting and was honestly this books saving grace - she reminded me quite a lot of Karan and Tiaan, two of Irvine's previous strong female protagonists.
By the end of the book I was really ready for it all to wrap up, and it could have, except Irvine then throws in some extremely late minute curve balls, setting up for the next two books. I do feel like I want to continue with the story, but only out of obligation rather than because I actually enjoyed it.
So other than harbouring some bitter disappointment, I am now genuinely perplexed as to how an author can produce works of such vastly different quality ... one friend suggested that he got a ghost writer to do it ... it wouldn't surprise me.