Official SPFBO Rating: 6
Overview (No Spoilers):
Matar crafts a beautifully detailed world in Legacy of the Brightwash. Her elegant writing transports the reader to a grim society where individuals with the Talent, or as it is officially classified, the taint, are forced to register and have every aspect of their life controlled. For example, the slightest infractions, such as an unapproved romance, risk permanent imprisonment. Throughout Legacy of the Brightwash, we witness several examples of this authority being abused, with even more appalling applications being hinted at and poised to be explored further as the series progresses.
Among my favorite aspects of Legacy of the Brightwash are the flawed characters who endear themselves to the reader as they struggle to survive in this broken system. The main character, Tashue, around whom the rest of the cast revolves, believes absolutely in his government to the extent that he allows his only son to be locked up for noncompliance. As we learn more about this deceptively complex man, we see there are cracks in his firm resolve that run deep, but are patched over by duty and purpose. These cracks reopen with each secret he uncovers while investigating the mysterious death of a child, further evolving his conviction of right and wrong. This erosion of faith only continues to accelerate as Tashue finds himself drawn into political games that he is unaccustomed to navigating, leaving him often exasperated at such frivolities.
While Tashue is by far the most developed character, Matar surrounds him with a vibrant cast of other personalities that are distinct and memorable. Unfortunately their depths that are visible just beneath the surface have yet to be mined despite the length of this novel. Tashue is allotted the vast majority of the print space, but we are granted intriguing glimpses of other characters, such as his son Jason and his lover Lorne, along with Tashue’s love interest, Stella and the powerful, plotting Illea. Each of these individuals contains their own complex ambitions, intrigue, and mystery that keeps the reader wondering about the secrets that always seem just off screen. I found I was most curious regarding Ishmael, General Wolfe’s right-hand man, who seemed, simultaneously, incredibly broken and a master at deception. I want to know more about his backstory, as well as what his ultimate motivations are as I suspect his allegiances are not all that they appear to be, perhaps leading to his accelerating downward spiral.
Legacy of the Brightwash is indeed a hefty tomb, clocking in at 668 pages, though with the level of detail, mystery, and complex character development, I hardly noticed the length through large swaths of this read. That said, much of the rest of the story seemed never-ending as entire chapters failed to move the plot measurably forward. And so, upon finishing the last page, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disappointment at how few questions were actually answered, especially as the ending arrived rather abruptly, leaving key characters in limbo. In many ways this entire novel is dedicated to establishing the foundations, e.g., characters, culture, and issues, with a larger focus on laying the pieces leading to Tashue’s realignment of conscience. Overall, Matar weaves a highly detailed world in Legacy of the Brightwash, where one man is forced to reassess the morality of the government he serves or risk losing those he loves to the same regulations he’s enforced for decades.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- I would have been so frustrated if I were Jason that my father didn’t have an about face until he fell in love with someone who shares the same Talent as Jason. Sure there were a lot of other factors that changed Tashue’s mind, but love seemed to be the key factor that spurred the avalanche of change.
- Why does the General have Ishmael’s loyalty? Why does the General put up with Ishmael’s constant ‘bad’ behavior? Was the General constantly betraying Tashue? It seems like he and Ishmael were the only people Tashue was telling all his secrets to and having all of them unravel the last quarter of the book.
- Whose blood was on Ishmael’s hands when Tashue ran into him randomly on the streets?
- What did Tashue hope to accomplish by word vomiting all of his secrets drunk at a party to Rainer where no one else could hear him?
- Is Allie Tei really safe with the General?
- Can Jason really get out of the Rift? Is Ishmael helping him? What if Tashue promised himself to Iwan but Ishmael and the crime boss were already working together to get Jason out?
- Was Keoh actually killed?
- How was Amias Wolfe killed?
- How powerful will Ceridwen be? Can she be taught to control her powers? Will Tashue finally release the hold on his powers? I kept expecting him too with how stressed and beat down he was by the end of this novel.
- Why is there weird tension between Mallory Imburleigh and Ismael?
- Is Illea’s child actually Tashue’s?
- Did Stella kill Siras? How did he find her?
- Who killed the woman who had escaped the Birthing Center?
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Abattoir: a place where animals are butchered
Anise: a Eurasian annual herb (Pimpinella anisum) of the carrot family having carminative and aromatic seeds