(2017) Trudi Canavan, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, 567pp, ISBN 978-0-356-50116-1
Trudi Canavan's Successor's Promise is book three in her 'Millennium's Rule' series. It is not a standalone novel, so reading books one and two is recommended to get the full enjoyment of this one.
This volume continues Tyen and Rielle's stories as they seek, in their own ways, to protect the ones they love and limit the harm to innocent bystanders. The narrative swaps between the two-character viewpoints so the reader understands their thoughts and motivations. Tyen's attempts to protect all sides means he plays the double agent, balancing the harm he avoids against the harm he causes. Rielle is running away, hiding, to protect those she is closest to and to save all the worlds from the innocent that travels with her.
Through the narrative we see two flawed, human characters showing that huge personal power does not bring happiness. They are forced to keep making compromises and so muddy the water between what is good and what is expedient.
The themes of good and evil are present in the novel. Is it good simply not to do evil, is it acceptable to do an evil act if it brings about a good result, do the ends justify the means? Can Tyen justify killing a person if it allows another to live? If you teach someone a skill, are you responsible if they use that skill for evil ends? These issues push the character to try to do better but also paralyse them in indecision.
The character Raen epitomises this; on one world he is seen as a benevolent mage bringing peace, in another an evil dictator suppressing free will... for essentially the same actions. Tyen cannot decide if people are better off with someone creating and enforcing absolute rule or allowing people liberty and for the strongest in society not to be held accountable. It is hard for him to see a middle ground when an individualís capacity for magic unbalances society.
Successor's Promise also makes the reader examine what makes a person, is it their experience, their knowledge or something more intangible? If we were stripped of our memories would we make the same decisions? Is our nature fixed by genetics or prophesy or can we change? An issue worth considering in fantasy and in our lives.
Canavan writes beautiful, character-driven tales, this one is a little confused at times as the characters lose their way, but are all the more realistic for it. The size of the books might be off putting, but it is really worth a read, the characters pull you and you are hardly aware how many pages have past. It is an excellent tale of love and the striving to be a better person. Something perhaps to which we can all relate. The story does not stop here and continues in book four, Millennium's Rule, where perhaps we will find out how prophecy affects their lives.
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