A guest review by Kassa
This review is likely to contain spoilers about past books in the series.
The Rifter is a ten-part serialized novel by award-winning author, Ginn Hale. The first episode, The Shattered Gates, was published on March 8, 2011.
When John opens a letter addressed to his missing roommate, Kyle, he expects to find a house key, but instead he is swept into a strange realm of magic, mysticism, revolutionaries and assassins. Though he struggles to escape, John is drawn steadily closer to a fate he share with Kyle—to wake the destroyer god, the Rifter, and shatter a world.
In the last installment of the Rifter, John and Ravishan were left together and bleeding on the Holy Road in a very hanging ending. Instead of picking up where that left off, this particular installment makes the odd choice of leaping back to a hanging ending of a prior book but a future scene (future as far as the timeline). It’s a bit confusing at first. For those following along you’ll remember that Kahlil (Ravishan in the future is Kahlil) went to the future while John went to the past. Eventually the two meet up with John as Jath’ibaye when Kahlil saves Jath’ibaye’s life and Jath’ibaye in turn saves Kahlil’s life and they run off on a sailing ship. Well that storyline had been shelved in favor of revisiting how John became Jath’ibaye. We’re not quite to the point but the story has skipped ahead (again) and is back with Kahlil and Jath’ibaye.
For starters I feel this is a poor transition between serials. I had thought the story would show how John becomes Jath’ibaye and pick up when the two stories came together. Instead this jumping back and forth is jarring, confusing, and not well executed. It’s hard to switch gears so completely so many times within the story and still remain invested and interested. So I’ll admit right away I was put off, despite this particular storyline/thread being one of my favorites. Once I could make the transition and get back into the story, the action and characters take off with even more fascinating and twisting reveals. This is one of the best novellas in the series but I still maintain that the choice to stick this particular serial here is jarring and a poor choice.
However once the story gets past that and jumps back into the action, the continuing plot and furthering details are incredible. We learn more about how Kahlil landed where he did and why his memories are so distorted. We learn more bits and pieces of how the world came to be as it is, what Jath’ibaye’s role is in that and some very vague references to characters from the past. It’s still disconcerting to switch gears so completely and try to match current knowledge with the sparing new details. However the interaction between Kahlil and Jath’ibaye is one of my favorites and shines incredibly well here.
The story offers two solid themes in this installation. The first is furthering the details of the world building and the intricate plot about the Rifter and his powers. We learn a significant amount about Jath’ibaye even though the entire story is told from Kahlil’s point of view. We also learn quite a bit about Kahlil and how/why he returned to the future while John returned to the past. There are a lot of very important and essential details that help connect the various dots in the story. So for that, this serial is one of the best of the series. The story is starting to come together and make much more sense from the various angles and sideplots while the main characters are starting to consistently interact.
Jath’ibaye and Kahlil’s deepening relationship is the other major development of this novella. Kahlil must reconcile his past as Ravishan and future as Kahlil alongside his knowledge of John on Earth with the man Jath’ibaye. This may sound confusing but it’s done almost seamlessly and with some very intuitive conversations. I especially like how the two men come together as individuals and how they compliment each other. There’s no on page sex (damn) but there is a definite chemistry and romance to the story that’s very welcome. Watching the two men experience happiness, no matter how brief, is a nice addition to the series.
Other than these themes, the writing is as strong as it always is and the pace races along. The novella is the longest of the series so far but I read it the fastest. I almost literally couldn’t put it down once I was able to make the shift in thinking at the beginning. The story is just richer and deeper than ever and you can’t help sinking into such a lush and vivid world. There is definite evil but it’s offset in shades of gray and conscience that make the decisions harder and more intense. I’m very curious to see where the story goes from here but I’m also hesitant about whether the story will make another significant and jarring leap in the narrative. While this is undoubtedly a great story, it’s not a very linear one, which is unfortunate. Still those following the serial should greatly enjoy this installment once you get past the shift in thinking at the start.