With her debut, All My Crimes, Tal Valante manages to pack a surprising amount of detail (and emotional attachment) into a story that’s less than 50 pages long. Told largely via flashback, by a narrator who isn’t entirely sure of himself or his memories, the uncertainty and distance makes for an intriguing tale.
What we have here is not so much a tale of the war between elves and humans, but one of the aftermath . . . and the consequences. Valante forces us to examine the causes of conflict, the excuses behind our hatreds, and the moral justifications for our atrocities. It’s often been said that history is written by the victorious, but this is one instance where that story is not one of triumph and justice served, but rather one of guilt and a conscience forever stained.
Teregryn is an intriguing character, in that we see him suffer greatly, and come to sympathise with him . . . but we cannot quite distance ourselves from his role in the genocide of the elves. His king, on the other hand, is an almost entirely despicable man, a master of genocide and betrayal. The depth of their past relationship is only hinted at, but it left me torn, desperate for answers, but not sure I really wanted to know more.
The atmosphere here is fantastic, and the details so cunningly provided, it’s easy to become immersed in the world Valante has created. Although the story works very well as it is, and might lose something without the intensity of its focus, this is one story I wouldn’t mind rereading as part of a larger novel.
[Reviewed by Sally]