This is a reread for me. Originally, I read The Rifter as 10 different installations. It was more than a roller coaster of emotions for me - it was more like being chained to a wooden rack that gets picked up and ravaged by a tornado. That first time, I flew by each of the ten novellas without paying much attention to detail. So it has been a pleasure to revisit this series, but being able to look at everything with a clinical eye instead of being driven by my emotions and the need to know what happens next
This book compilation contains the first three volumes of the series. It is probably the least exciting as well, because readers are introduced to the world of Basawar - an alternative to our own earth, which is named Nayeshi. Except instead of the modern day earth we all know and love, Basawar is a violent and destructive world filled with religious persecution, witchcraft, and political strife.
When John, Laurie and Bill are sent to Basawar, they endure repression, illness and isolation. We see how these group of friends are forced to change under the circumstances of this new world. Meanwhile, Kyle's own adventure back to Basawar in order to find John and company leads to its own little twist of events.
I'll admit: I was confused during my first read. I felt like I was missing something when the POV switched from John to Kyle. The language of Basawar kind of got muddled along the way (despite the dictionary at the end of the book). My advice? Read the story carefully. This isn't one of those series where you read the first installment, take a break, then come back to read the second installment several weeks (and books) later. I mean, you can
(no one is stopping you!), but it's easy to get derailed; especially if the POV changes with the new installment. With the language, don't freak out over it! When John first learns Basawar, just know that anything important for readers to know will be mentioned in English as well (because John will still "think" in English over the important dialogue). Later, if you get confused with a word here or there, then simply look it up. It certainly isn't something to freak out over.
And if you ARE confused with the plot at first, just know that is perfectly normal. Most people don't really get what's going on completely
until halfway into the series (I am basing this on my own experience and through feedback from my GR friends). You know enough to not be frustratingly left in the dark, but the complete picture will reveal itself when all the subtitle puzzle pieces are assembled (you got to love that AHA moment!).
So as usual, Ginn Hale is a masterful creator of worlds. I still remember Basawar vividly months after my initial read. And even though I absolutely hate Basawar due to all the bad shit that happens in the book, it felt very familiar upon reread. I've got to applaud Ginn Hale here - if I ever see her in public, I will hug/tackle her and demand an autograph which will be enshrined at my apartment next to my Buddha.
Characterization also gets an A+. John and Kyle will always have a special place in my heart. And the best part? We are dealing with mature
characters! John and Kyle aren't whiny, petty, or impulsively stupid. These are men who have lived through hell and continue to do so in order to survive. John is an ecology major and spent much of his time outdoors back in Nayeshi. I think his time spent in nature gave him a very grounding personality - one that allows him to think before he acts. Kyle is a person who seems to struggle to discover his true personality - an opportunity he didn't have the leisure to explore when he dedicated his live to become Khalil.
While I would classify this series as a romance, just note that there is no explicit sexual encounters between the two. This first compilation has one kiss scene and later installments have off-page or vaguely described sex. So don't read this if you're looking for something to make you feel hot and want to get nekkid (though there's nothing wrong if you do!). :D
What you get when picking up this series is a dark fantasy tale. There is violence of many kinds (burning people alive, war, torture/skinning, massacres, etc.). There is witchcraft and sorcery. There is much regret and guilt. There are just as many confusions as there are revelations. And then there's the beginnings of love. Love that overcomes the boundaries of two worlds, of different timelines and of fate.
Because when the dust is settled and the wash of blood has seeped into the cracks of dirt, there's still something fleetingly beautiful peaking through the gore.
And man, the journey was sure worth it.