That difficult middle book of the trilogy? Nope, no problem. Just send the hero off in a different direction altogether, with a bit of seafaring and... pirates! What could be better than chasing around the oceans, with a sea battle and a storm and... and... You can probably fill in some of the blanks here. Very little of this took me by surprise, but that doesn’t make it any less of an enjoyable romp.
plot is, in many ways, a choppier affair than in ‘The Tattered Banner’.
Main character Soren starts off looking for missing girlfriend
Alessandra, then gets distracted by a search to find out more about his
Gift (the mysterious power that overtakes him during a fight and makes
him super-fast). That thread ends abruptly, and then a storm at sea
leaves his ship vulnerable to pirate slave-traders, when that is
resolved he falls in with an old acquaintance and sets off after the
pirate... and so on. This kind of episodic story has some advantages,
and there’s never a dull moment, but it does feel sometimes as if Soren
is passively being pushed around by events. He ends up bouncing around
all over the place, like a glorified travelogue of his world, and while
the places he visits are interesting in themselves, the speed with which
he hops from one to another, and the ease with which problems are
solved, dulls the impact.
The most interesting place, to my mind,
was the mysterious island in the centre of the ocean where there are
the remains of a great city. The place is tainted with magic, so it’s
dangerous to visit, and the peculiar and foreboding atmosphere of it is
conveyed very well. But then, it becomes unexpectedly easy and frankly
an excuse for a big info-dump, so in the end it’s a bit of a let-down.
rest of the book is a giant boys-own adventure, with regular outings
for Soren’s talent with a sword. In the first book, the fights, and the
outbreaks of magic that accompanied them, were a highlight. Here much of
the awesomeness is lost and the fights become rather mundane, as Soren
tries to gain full control of his power so that it doesn’t overwhelm
him. And it has to be said that the sheer number of times the swords
come out makes this aspect of the book repetitious.
If this makes
it sounds as if I was disappointed, well, perhaps I was, just a little.
I would have liked more of the magic, more of the mind-blowing
Gift-infused moments like the Belek battle in the first book (which
remains an unforgettable image, still vivid in my mind), more times when
things went wrong and I was taken by surprise. Everything was just a
tad too easy and predictable. On the other hand, this was a cracking
action-adventure, elegantly written and enjoyable from first to last,
with no problems picking up the threads of the story from book 1, and no
sign of middle-book doldrums. Four stars.