By Susan R Matthews
I started reading this novel, and about five pages in, due to something about the quality of the prose, I felt that I had read this author before. Turns out I had read, as Susan R Matthews wrote Prisoner of Conscience. Avalanche Soldiers is quite a different novel, though: where Prisoner of Conscience was tortured, difficult, and painful, Avalanche Soldier is earnest, inviting, and introspective. It is a story of two religions, the societies that follow each religion, and what happens at the intersection, where orthodox meets heterodox.
The world is fascinating, with a complicated history that is both well thought out and subject to the same issues of interpretation as real world history, with cultural, religious, and political considerations playing roles in shaping that history and how it is told. There are a wealth of terms and synonyms relating to religious and cultural persuasion, and it lends a richness to the work, although between the pilgrims, wayfarers, orthodox, Shadene, heterodox, believers, and dreamers, it can be hard to keep the terms straight at times.
I really enjoyed the viewpoint character: she was professional, capable, likeable, sympathetic, and a million other positive adjectives, all while espousing very different viewpoints from me. Her attention to the details of the natural world.
The immersion of the main character in the heterodox teaching is a great exploration of religious sentiment, how religious belief and faith functions, and was super interesting in general. That also leads into Varrick, the leader of the Varrick Teaching, and the mysteries behind her origins and motive. This is an aspect that I think was very well done: much at the core of spirituality and religion is about the mysterious, and that survives and is conveyed very well here.
Storycraft wise, the book is great. The flow and pacing are very well done, and the mixture of scenes to summary was perfect, although there did seem to be an unusually high frequency of depicting characters lapsing into unconsciousness.