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#61 Inda by Sherwood Smith

Ten-year-old Inda has grown up knowing that his older brother will one day rule Choraed Elgaer, and Inda will support him as his Shield Arm. So he is surprised when he, along with other noble second sons, is called to the military academy, an unprecedented act spurned on by an impending war. Here Inda will learn to fight, and begin to grow into his potential as an innovative military commander. But when he attracts the wrong kind of attention from powerful man, Inda finds his newly happy life taking a dark turn.

Inda is the first book in a fantasy quartet by Sherwood Smith. Before reading this novel, I was familiar with Smith's Crown Duel, a book which takes place in this same world, but at a different time. One area where Inda truly excels is in it's world building. Smith presents us with an incredibly rich world with a well defined culture and history. I could not help but be fascinated by this strange land which puts so much emphasis on war and violence. Another one of Smith's strengths comes in characterization. The novel Inda is filled with a large cast of characters, that are often more complex than you'd suspect at first. Inda himself is a likable protagonist. I loved the fact that he was so clever, and enjoyed watching him grow from age ten to sixteen. At the same time, I felt a deep sympathy for him. Poor, honorable Inda faces true hardship in this book. At times, he reminded me of Ender from Ender's Game. A likable and remarkably bright individual facing challenges at far too young an age. Some of my other favorite characters include Sponge, a young prince, and Hadand, Inda's older sister.

Although this is my first time reading Inda, it is not the first time that I have picked it up. I actually purchased the book a few years ago when it was first released, but had a really hard time getting into it. The reason for that is that Inda is a very complex novel, filled with as large of a cast of characters as you'd expect to find in a door stopper like this, and a culture which possesses many special titles that can be hard to remember. Inda is also not a page turner. In fact the pacing can be on the slow side. The novel is 568 pages long (at least in hardcover, more in paperback), and you feel all 568 pages. Inda is also very much a series book. Very little is resolved by the end, so if you plan on picking this book up, be prepared to make a four book commitment.

So does this mean that Inda is a bad book? Of course not. Inda is an enjoyable story, but it's a book that you really need to commit time to in order to fully appreciate the depths of the story. It's also not for everyone. I'll admit at times I found the large cast of characters to be confusing (I found out too late that Smith has a character guide on her website) and the slow pacing to be frustrating. Still, I appreciated it's world and characters too much to give up on it. I would recommend this book for fans of large fantasy books with a heavy emphasis on world building and character development over a nail biting plot.

Rating: four stars
Length: 568 pages
Source: shelf
Challenges: This book is part of the Summer of Series Challenge
Similar book: The nautical setting that takes up a large chunk of this book reminded me of Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy.
Other books I've read by this author: Crown Duel (which consists of both Crown Duel, and Court Duel), Wren to the Rescue, Wren's Quest, Wren's War

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