Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: Yes - first book in trilogy
After saving Queen Ehlana and defeating the evil god Azash, Sparhawk is left to enjoy the hard-won peace of his kingdom. But peace is fragile and easily broken.
From the east, whispers of horrific armies being raised from the dead surface. Tales of ancient warriors and dreadful monsters who are tearing the kingdom apart. Seeing the threat this poses to their kingdom and people, Ehlana and Sparhawk set out with a retinue to Matherion, the Tamuli capital.
Little do they know that the enemy is already within the gates of fire-domed Matherion awaiting their arrival . . .
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
Like with the other books, there are some important things to point out about elements that, in the nicest of terms, have not aged well. There is a new group of people to be racist against, though in a less overt way. The Tamuls, the rulers of the massive, eastern continent-spanning empire the trilogy is primarily set in, are major characters and aren’t looked down on the same way the Rendors were in the first trilogy. They’re a mixed bunch of allies and scoundrels (rather than all being stupid, rabid religious fanatics), but much is made of their skin tone – and yellow is frequently used.
The book also manages to straddle both being a white saviour trilogy (the Tamuls can’t solve the problem, so go ask this European-coded character for help) while also rather seriously interrogating Sparhawk’s prejudices at times. The sequence when they’re in Sarsos digs into the idea of prejudice, but often in a very clumsy (and at times felt like it might be bordering on offensive) manner.
I did, however, enjoy it. We see all our favourite characters return, and then they’re upended into a new world with new threats. There is a lot of mystery around what exactly is happening and who’s behind it. In that sense (particularly given an apparition reveals crucial information kickstarting the next book at the end), the structure is quite similar to THE DIAMOND THRONE.
However (unlike in the Mallorean, the follow up series to Edding’s Belgariad, and the first two fantasy series he wrote) it doesn’t feel repetitive. The very different setting and lack of a clear goal beyond “get to the Tamuli Capital and work it out” helps differentiate it. There is also a larger cast, and less sneaking about. The inclusion of more women in the core group (Ehlana, Danae, and Mirtai, plus Melandire and Alean to a lesser degree in this book) help.
There are also sorts of dangers to face. They come from a more mythical background this time, rather than mind-controlled soldiers. Plus there’s a vast conspiracy slowly unfolding. It’s not “we know these characters are involved, we just don’t know exact what they’re doing.” Instead there’s more a sense that something big is happening but there’s not enough to put it all together yet.
The audiobooks of this trilogy have a different narrator to the audiobooks of the previous trilogy. It means that many words are pronounced differently. For some deceased characters (like Annais) it doesn’t matter as he doesn’t come up much. However, some major characters like Sephrenia are said differently, which is rather jarring at first. Naturally, the voices/tones for the characters are different too.
It’s very unusual for me to listen for as long to audiobooks as I have been recently – two in a row is usually all I can manage before I nope out. I think it helps that I know the stories already and that the classic fantasy feel brings up a lot of nostalgic feelings. I’m continuing on to the next book.
Read my reviews of other books by David Eddings:
The Elenium (chronologically before this series):
The Tamuli (this series):
- PAWN OF PROPHECY (#1)
- QUEEN OF SORCERY (#2)
- MAGICIAN’S GAMBIT (#3)
- CASTLE OF WIZARDY (#4)
- ENCHANTER’S END GAME (#5)
The Malloreon (chronologically after the Belgariad):
- GUARDIANS OF THE WEST (#1)
- KING OF THE MURGOS (#2)
- DEMON LORD OF KARANDA (#3)
- SORCERESS OF DARSHIVA (#4)
- SEERESS OF KELL (#5)
Companions to the Belgariad and the Malloreon: