© Orson Scott Card, cover art by Mike Rosamilia.
I came to this book in an unusual way. I asked for Card’s book “Ruins” for Christmas, after seeing an online ad for it, thinking it was a sequel to Card’s book “The Lost Gate,” which I’d received the previous Christmas. I started reading it, and thought it odd that none of the characters or situations seemed familiar. It finally dawned on me this was the sequel to ANOTHER book, “Pathfinder,” which I hadn’t read yet. By the time I twigged, I’d read about a third of “Ruins,” and enjoyed it enough that I bought “Pathfinder” as an e-book and read it through. So, in reading this book, which has elements of time travel, I sort of read it in a time-traveller way, knowing some things about the characters well in advance. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt the reading experience, though perhaps it did remove some of the potential suspense.
Rigg is a young man living in the wilderness of his world (known as “Garden”) with his father, the two of them trapping animals for their fur and spending little time in the small towns of the region. Rigg’s father is a very knowledgable man, and through Rigg’s childhood he teaches him a great deal, especially about the unusual ability the boy has to see the “paths” of every living thing nearby, including people. When Rigg’s father dies in a sudden accident, the boy follows his father’s instructions to return to the nearest town and ask a woman they know there for his birthright, things that have been kept by her for him. He’s also told to go to the capital city of his land to find his sister, though this is the first he’s heard of her.
Rigg finds trouble waiting for him in town, but also a good friend, Umbo, who wants to come along on his quest. In another town they make a new ally, Loaf, an innkeeper who was once a soldier and knows the capital better than anyone else they have access to. Rigg’s birthright includes a bag of very valuable gems, and the three try to sell one in a larger town on their journey. This triggers a swift response from the capital in the form of a military task force sent to capture Rigg and bring him under guard to the capital. All three are captured, but Umbo and Loaf escape. Umbo also has a unique power to travel through time, though he’s still learning how to use it.
When Rigg arrives in the capital, he’s brought before his mother, another person he’s never met. She was the queen here before the country was overtaken by revolution, and is now a house-prisoner, where Rigg joins her. Rigg’s mysterious sister is here too, somewhere, hidden by another strange power. Loaf and Umbo arrive and make plans to rescue Rigg, but before long matters come to a head, and all of their lives are in great danger, and the city in turmoil as they try to make their escape.
Well written, as all Card’s books are, this could be seen as a fantasy except for the framing sequence about a colony ship traveling from a future Earth to this distant planet of Garden which reveals it as science fiction. Indeed, there’s a good deal of the “science of ideas” throughout the book.