by Jude Fisher
Reviewed by Coral
The world of this book, Elda, is a strange and dangerous place, populated by many tribes. Amongst them are: the Eyrans, a northern people, ruled by a new king, and long ago displaced from their homeland; the Istrians, a southern people who hide their women away, burn heretics in the name of their goddess Falla, and who did the displacing of the Eyrans; and the Footloose, a wild and nomadic people, used as mercenaries by the other tribes.
In the world's center is Sanctuary, a fortress of ice, home to the wizard Rahe, his apprentice Virelai, and many magical items. Everything is normal, as Virelai slowly learns the ins and outs of magic, until he comes to believe that Rahe may not be all that sane. Trapping his master in an endless sleep, he flees Sanctuary, taking with him Bete, a cat stuffed full of magic, and The Rose of the World, an attractive woman with no memory of her own life.
Unfortunately, for everyone really, the time of Allfair is upon Elda, as the tribes gather in Istria for ... You know, I'm not really sure what the purpose behind the Allfair was. It's like a big flea market with some sporting tournaments thrown in. I wish a better explanation could have been made, as it was it seems preposterous. Seriously, how can this event bring anything but bad news, what with all the hostility and resentment simmering between the Istrians and the Eyrans?
Worse, Virelai has taken shelter with the Footloose, and the magic he has stolen is out of control.
I swear, this book is one big cliché. In the rundown of some of the main characters, see if you can pick out anything that sounds original.
Katla Aransen - an Eyran girl who runs away to avoid an arranged marriage
Selen - an Istrian girl, abused by her father, desperate to escape a betrothal she had no say in
Virelai - a wizard's apprentice who doesn't listen to his master and meddles in things he doesn't understand (think of Mickey Mouse in Fantasia)
Rahe - a wizard in an endless sleep, waiting for someone to come and wake him up (think Merlin)
Saro Vingo - an Istrian boy who just wants something more than the cruel and oppressive world he was born into
Tanto Vingo - Saro's older brother, a brute who thrives in the violence of his world
Tycho - Selen's abusive father, a petty lord ready to use his daughter to advance his social standing
Jenna - an Eyran girl of middle class, who wishes to marry far above her status, and dreams of marrying a king
Ravn - King of the Eyrans, forbidden to marry the woman he desires as her father lacks money
I got the feeling throughout the book, that no one liked each other all that much. I certainly didn't gat a sense of family from either the Aransens or the Vingos. And, were there any Eyrans who were even loyal to their king? I mean, how else could Katla get away with refusing to address the king by any kind of title. "I don't call anyone sir." Stupid little nitwit. This is the character I'm supposed to cheer for? Yeah, right.
The political machinations were dealt with so hazily it made them impossible to follow.
Then there's these weird scenes, with these characters, Joz, Knobber, Mam, Dogo and Doc, that pop up randomaly, and without much context. I had no idea what was going on in them.
As I write this, the series stands at 3 books, but I won't be reading any more of them.