Emphyrio is the kind of book you can only put down after you finished the chapter. Even though itís not very exiting, it has a certain suspense or however you may call it that makes you want to keep on reading.
Emphyrio tells about Ghyl Tarvoke, a boy who lives in the city Ambroy on the planet Halma. There he lives with his father and has carefree life. Halma is a quiet planet ruled by the Lords. Most of Halmaís other inhabitants are simple artisans. Those artisans make art and copying is strictly forbidden. Those masterpieces are much wanted on other planets, but life on Halma remains poor.
The Lords seem to be the only ones profiting of the high prizes other planets pay for the masterpieces of Halma.
Ghyl is to be a wood sculptor like his father Amiante Tarvoke. But Amiante is a rather unconventional inhabitant of Halma, and gives Ghyl a lot of freedom. He doesnít participate the religious rituals of Ambroy either, which involve intricate leaping (saltation).
Ghyl has a best friend, Floriel, and gets a couple of other friends when he is almost forced to learn about the religion in Ambroy. Most of them end up ďnoncupsĒ, they live outside of the welfare system. His father learns Ghyl the old writing system and has an old, incomplete document of the legend of Emphyrio. Because it is so important, Amiante copies it. He gets caught and has to go into rehab. He doesnít survive it.
Ghyl now starts to learn how the world works, especially at a ball where he meets a lordís daughter with whom he has a small affair. He gets obsessed with the legend of Emphyrio, convinced it is about Halma. And in the end he steals a Lordís spaceship in search for answers.
Emphyrio is for a large part a flashback. This makes that you want to know what the beginning was about and puts a certain suspense over the book. But the beginning is very light, a happy childhood with very little questions. Also the culture of Ambroy is fascinating and very inventive. But explained gradually enough to keep up with it. The only downside it that you get a little too much information in the beginning in a couple of footnotes.
The story overall is good, a nice twist on the end. A weird ending which I didnít get completely, but maybe when I read it again I will. The story has enough twists and strange events to keep you reading. The characters are well written, though two disappear and are never to be heard from again. This is a pity, for I hoped to find out what had happened to them. As for the rest of the characters, you completely understand their motives and emotions.
A nice detail to keep an eye on while reading this book are the names of all kind of things. Names for people (Amiante Tarvoke), places (Daillie) and coining words (noncups). This is a very nice book, well worth reading. I liked it a lot and advice all people, who donít mind a story that is a bit complicated, to read it.