Book Review: THE SAPPHIRE ROSE by David Eddings

Title in yellow on blue with pale blue geometric corners
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: yes - final book in trilogy

*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for THE DIAMOND THRONE and THE RUBY KNIGHT*

Synopsis:

Book cover for THE SAPPHIRE ROSE: title in yel

Finally the knight Sparhawk had come to possess Bhelliom, legendary jewel of magic that alone could save Queen Ehlana from the deadly poison that had felled her father. Sparhawk and Sephrenia, ageless instructor in Styric magics, made haste to free Ehlana from the crystalline cocoon that had preserved her life while they desperately sought a cure.

But Bhelliom carried dangers of its own. Once the stone came into his hands, Sparhawk found himself stalked by a dark, lurking menace. Whether the foul Zemoch God Azash was behind this threat, or some other enemy, even Sephrenia could not say—only that the sapphire rose held powers too dangerous for any mortal to bear.

Restoring Queen Ehlana would be only the beginning of Sparhawk’s mission. With the aid of four stalwart knights, one from each Militant Order, he must thwart Ehlana’s prisoner, the Primate Annias, in his plot to assume the throne of the Church. For as Archprelate, Annias would serve his secret master, Azash, and deliver up to the dread God the one thing Azash thirsted for—Bhelliom itself!

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

OK, I said, in my review for THE DIAMOND THRONE, that I’d talk about the relationship in my review for this book, and why it’s so EEEK. In case you haven’t guessed from my comment in the other reviews, the relationship is between Ehlana and Sparhawk. There are two main reasons why this is troubling – the first is the age difference, and the second the power dynamics.

We never get a firm mention of Sparhawk’s age, but we do have clues. He was a trained warrior more than ten years before the start of THE DIAMOND THRONE, when he was given responsibility for educating Ehlana (more on THAT later.) He was admired and all that, so he couldn’t have been newly knighted at the time because he wouldn’t have had such a towering reputation. He also talks about stiffness and old injuries in a way that feels very middle aged at least. Of course, in his society, people probably live a bit shorter, and badly healed at the time wounds probably ache more than the things we’re more used to now. However, he’s still a significant age. Most estimates I’ve seen put him in his late 30s.

The books are very clear about Ehlana’s age; she’s 18 in THE DIAMOND THRONE. That is a sizeable age difference, with him twice her age AT BEST. That’s really not a good thing for a relationship when one is only just not a minor. (“But she’s very mature” is NOT an argument I give any credence too. HE still thinks of her using child-like language until they get married, which is very much not good.)

Then there’s the matter of him having been her teacher when she was little (at least between the ages of 6 and 8, when he was banished.) The books pass this off as “look, you raised your own wife; it’s your own fault you can’t escape her determination to marry you. Haha.” That’s really not great, again.

It comes down to power, basically. He was a teacher, willing or otherwise, which is a position of authority and trust. There is a reason teachers who have relationships with students get fired, and often banned from teaching. It is an abuse of that position to go beyond the clear bounds of teacherly authority with someone who is young and vulnerable.

Yes, she’s grown up now, and she’s the one who decides they’re going to married, using her power as queen to ensure it, etc, but that doesn’t erase that she made that decision as a vulnerable child. He puts up a token resistance, but he has so much influence over her because of the way he brought her up. They should have been made closer in age, and without that teacher-student dynamic to start it all off, as it’s just bad on so many levels.

(As an aside, she is a not bad representation of a strong woman who doesn’t fight and uses sexist expectations as a tool to get her own way by pretending weakness etc, though she also falls into stereotypes at times.)

That said, this is my favourite book of the trilogy by far (and I love the first book.) It’s also quite obvious in what I write the effect this book has had on me. It all comes down to the Chyrellos section, which takes up about half the book. This is where all the religious politics of the first two books comes together into the election sequences and siege.

It’s so much fun, and so rewarding to see everything pay off. I love all the politicking around who will get the archprelate’s throne, with the numbers of the votes and how it kept changing with every person added or removed from the game. It’s political fantasy done so well, and the way it ends makes me grin every time.

We then, of course, have the final leg of the quest and the show down with the big bad – the more traditional part of the book. There’s a big battle, actual cost to it all, and I loved the way there are long-reaching consequences afterward. So often, the world is saved and everything is happily ever after. This book often mentions the enormous cost of the previous big battle (well back in history), and fulfils the implicit promise there about the consequences after the next.

I’m sad to come to the end of this series, but I’m glad there’s a sequel/companion series set in this world, following the same characters. I will start on with that soon!


Read my reviews of other books by David Eddings:

The Elenium (this series):

The Tamuli (chronologically after the Elenium):

The Belgariad:

The Malloreon (chronologically after the Belgariad):

Companions to the Belgariad and the Malloreon:

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