(2006) Julian May, HarperCollins, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-007-1-2324-7
This story is the third in a trilogy but even so getting into this tale is not at all difficult. The action begins two paragraphs in, as one of the main characters becomes aware that something large, concealed, and probably inimical is stalking him and his incapacitated female companion. I was immediately caught in the plot and any potential confusion arising out of what I may have missed in the first two books was cleared up when the author cleverly explained the back story through flashbacks and remembrances between the main characters.
There were three or four points of view being switched between in the book, introducing the main groups in the story, and so everything only began to come together in the final part of the story. (This is one good thing about reading the third book in a trilogy.) The four perspectives were well-separated and yet woven together in such a way that at no time did the reader feel confused by the volume of information they had to assimilate, and there were enough references to the other groups involved (and communication between some of them) that you always knew where they slotted in and what they were to do with each other.
There is the love-struck eldest son of the ruling King, who is willing to sacrifice all to marry his chosen bride, aided and abetted by his younger twin brother, who is more than happy to help, especially if it gains him the crown when his father dies. The plan succeeds, but throws the King and kingdom into disarray as the way that this is achieved removes the oldest son from his inheritance.
The King himself turns out to be a thoroughly corrupt individual, and quite easy to despise, although his enemies are almost all equally despicable. He has resorted to lying, murder, and intrigue to hold onto his power, and has hidden his own slight sorcerous gift, which would otherwise invalidate his own claim to rule. Things start to get stirred up as his aquatic enemies -- a man-eating race called the Salka, who have their own sorcerers Stones of Power -- mass to attack the land from two separate directions. As this occurs, Court intrigue and the King's hidden legitimate heir from his first wife put in an appearance at the same time as the King's oldest son suddenly becomes unable to succeed to the throne.
This is a story of sorcery, of Stones of Power, two opposing groups of non-corporeal entities, who have been at war with each other for hundreds of years. Both groups are willing to use conflicts and squabbles amongst the humans if it furthers their own ends. There are the Salka, a group of aquatic corporeal entities opposing the humans, and their objective is to drive the humans off the land they feel belongs to them. The King's first Queen and her son put in an appearance, much to the annoyance of the King, , and the king's ex-Intelligencer also turns up to help. These are just a few amongst others playing a part in this fast-paced, exciting, very long but eminently readable story.
I felt that the epilogue rushed the events that it detailed; the material could have quite easily been expanded into a smaller follow-on book. This was the only disappointing part of what was otherwise a very well-written novel with an interesting storyline and a twisting plot that was enough to surprise but not so much as to confuse.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I plan to find more books by this author.
[Up: Fiction Reviews Index | SF Author: Website Links | Home Page: Concatenation]
[One Page Futures Short Stories | Recent Site Additions | Most Recent Seasonal Science Fiction News]
[Updated: 07.4.25 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy]