Gentle is a man who makes his living forging paintings and has his fun womanizing and generally doing whatever feels right at the time. He has no past and no real direction. Then he discovers his sometime lover, Jude, is being hunted by a hired killer. Oh yeah, and there are other dimensions and magic and all sorts of things that blow his mind.
So here’s my story with Imajica. I bought this as a duology in paperback form. So I read part one a while ago. And I only recently finished part two. This wasn’t wise, I know, because said duology is meant to be read as one, long book. It is one long book. I knew that. I did what I did anyway. I wanted to preface everything with that, because this is going to try and be a review of the entire experience, but clearly mine was a little… extended.
Reading this in two parts with time between gave me a unique perspective, I think, on the pacing of this story. The first half felt overly long, and I found myself frustrated at times with the hiccups the characters faced. Barker likes to have his character face trials and obstacles, like any author, but in this case, many of them in the first half felt like they halted the progression of the story for too long. It made me feel like I was pushing through, whereas the second half covers so much ground that it feels kinetic and keeps you reading with an anxiety to know what happens next. I wish the whole thing could’ve been like the second half.
The world building here is immense, which is probably why that first half felt bogged down to me. Barker had his work cut out for him, because he clearly set out to make this journey ambitious as hell. There’s so much to know, so much terminology and history and back story, and I felt it enriched the experience when I got a chance to step back and take it in as a whole. Especially considering that this is a far cry from your typical fantasy. I see so many authors who just plunk elves and orcs into their version of Middle Earth, and this was so apart from that, but it takes a lot of work to get there. For Barker and for us as readers. You better want to learn about this world, and if you do, you’ll be rewarded.
The character development is the sort you hope for in a book this long. It seems like it’d be a given that characters are going to be different by the end, but there were some scary moments when I feared Gentle, our protagonist, was going to continue on as if he’d learned nothing. Still Barker didn’t let me down. To the point that I wonder why I doubted.
Here’s something that’s more on a personal preference note: I don’t like the way that Barker introduces two characters, goes out of his way to tell us over and over and over that they are soul mates and can’t stay away from each other and have this amazing rapport, but whenever they’re together they fight. They argue. They can’t stand each other. So of course, they part ways. It sometimes feels like he has these dreams and wishes for characters that can never come true, because he has no control over their choices. It’s baffling, and it always leaves me feeling kind of empty. Because why tell me one thing and then show me another?
It has to be mentioned at the last that this book is gorgeously written. What will always bring me around to Barker is his writing style. His words, the way he chooses them, and how I’ve never read anyone who writes the way he does. He can capture the beauty in absolutely anything.
So if you’re interested in a fantasy story with a world you’ve never seen before, whole new territories to explore, definitely read this.