In astronomy, the solstice occurs twice each year – when the Sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky. The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). The day of the solstice is either the longest day of the year (in summer) or the shortest day of the year (in winter) for any place outside of the tropics.
The world of Solstice is the setting for an epic battle between twin goddess of light and darkness. Ylumya is a traditional goddess of the light – anchored in purity and sunshine, in color and intellectual knowledge. Her twin, Ynoirya, is a traditional goddess of darkness. Her powers are the creation and destruction of a moon goddess – death, sex, desire and secrets hidden in shadow. Their father created Solstice to give people free will, and to let the people decide which goddess they would follow.
Just as the sun hangs in a stillness and balance, the light and darkness are equal in power in Solstice. The Last Prospector begins as the final battle lines are drawn. One of the twins has to win the hearts and minds of Solstice, and everyone will eventually have to choose sides.
Except, perhaps, the eponymous Prospector himself. He reports to the Boss – the twin’s parent deity. With the help of friends and strangers, he is in search of treasure on Solstice. Communication through mysterious bells and chimes, as well as through powerful Dreams lead the Prospector down a winding path. He’s beginning to understand what that path is all about.
This book is very clearly the first in a series. The ball is rolling, but it has not yet begun to pick up pace. Most of this book feels like origin stories and setting the scene. We are introduced to the players in this ensemble cast, and allowed to wonder what roles they each might play as the series continues. The emotional inner arc of the Prospector is the only place where the book reaches a feeling of conclusion or denouement. The reader is very much interested in seeing how the action of the story continues.
I’d ordinarily be turned off by a book that feels like a large amount of setting-up, and very little actual action. There are three things that made this feel okay for me, and that inspire me to continue reading.
First, the emotional arc of the Prospector actually addresses this fact. It’s very self-aware. “I don’t do anything,” is a common sentiment from the title character. Because he’s impatient, it addresses my impatience as a reader. It helps me keep moving forward.
Second, the pacing. I read this book in a single day. The pacing was tight and rapid. There were no places where I put the book down, and felt alright waiting a few days to finish it. When the latter books in the series come out, I can imagine readers tumbling from one title to the next without pause.
The third reason I wasn’t impatient with the scene-setting was the depth and scope of the characters themselves. This is truly and ensemble cast, even if the Prospector plays the leading man. His brother is a much-needed comic foil. Prospector’s young friend, Tonyo the gifted nomad, is richly drawn and deeply emotional. The female characters range from the head of the whore’s guild to the head of the Luminscents (who feel to me like nuns for the goddess of light). Each person in Solstice feels round and complete. They have histories, hopes, dreams, desires. They have beliefs that drive them forward and people they care about.
I read the first book for the Prospector, I’ll return to the world to find out what happens to the others. The writing is smooth. It ranges from deep wisdom to physical comedy, from geeky easter eggs to quotes you want to write on your wall, they are so profound. It is a fun, engaging read.