IRONCROWN MOON
Julian May

 


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Second in the Boreal Moon Trilogy
Starykon, April 2005
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Fantasy

It’s easier to conquer four kingdoms than to make them think of themselves as one, High King Conrig has discovered in this sequel to CONQUEROR’S MOON. Each kingdom has a separatist faction, hoping to regain its independence. In addition, Conrig’s disgraced uncle Kilian, a talented sorcerer, has the perfect tool for vengeance if he can get his hands on it. Maudrayne, the wife Conrig divorced during his winning play for power, holds a secret that will bring Conrig down if she only gets the chance to expose it. The Salka monsters, who dominated the island of High Blenholme before humans took it, have acquired an ally who gives them hope they can take back their ancestral home.

One group of magickers believes Conrig is the only person who can defend High Blenholme. It is also predicted that, quite accidentally, he will help them in their fight against the Pain Eaters, the godlike beings who loan powerful amulets – sigils – to human sorcerers and demand a deadly price in return. The being called the One Denied the Sky leads a small group of good-hearted humans determined to see that Conrig stays king, Maudrayne stays isolated, and every sigil they don’t need in their fight is destroyed.

IRONCROWN MOON resolves into two basic plots. A treasure trove of sigils has been stolen from Conrig’s palace, and must be recovered before Conrig’s enemies get them. Maudrayne escapes, and must be kept from publicizing her ex-husband’s secret. Conrig’s head spy Deveron Austrey is commissioned to find both.

Of the stories introduced in IRONCROWN MOON, the battle for freedom from the Pain Eaters has the most promise. Queen Ullanoth uses her sigils too much, and it is a toss-up whether she will survive. Deveron uses a sigil for too big a job, and his life too is in danger. What will Conrig do with the stolen sigils, if he gets his hands on them? Despite glimpses of humanity we see in Conrig, he would risk anything to keep his throne. To the One Denied the Sky and his party, Conrig is an example of good coming from evil.

In its desperate chases over land and sea, IRONCROWN MOON is much more action oriented than its predecessor CONQUEROR’S MOON. It has the requisite court scheming and thoroughly planned ambushes, but needs the character development from CONQUEROR’S MOON to tell us who is doing what, and why. I also felt a lack of the visual beauty so prominent in CONQUEROR’S MOON. During my first reading, it seemed to me that many of those qualities which made CONQUEROR’S MOON such a standout had been cut to bring IRONCROWN MOON down to its 400-page length.

My mistake was that during my first time through IRONCROWN MOON, it had been two years since I read CONQUEROR’S MOON. I had lost track of many of the minor characters: who was doing what, and why. Without the necessary refresher, the plot threads cut back and forth so frequently that I was not given time to be re-hooked by any of the characters – who are not at their most likable anyway, doggedly chasing each other – until the late chapters. Even so, there was no doubt I would continue to read the series. Three of the IRONCROWN MOON subplots end in irresistible cliffhangers. I wanted to know what Deveron was going to do to make the Pain Eaters so futilely angry. Besides, the author is Julian May.

My second reading of IRONCROWN MOON, done in quick succession with the other two, was much more successful. CONQUEROR’S MOON, first of the trilogy, contains the character development necessary to support IRONCROWN MOON. SORCERER’S MOON hammers those characters into their final shapes in the forge of circumstances.

As always in a story by Julian May, the main plot is surrounded by multiple intertwined subplots and clever ploys. She has created a fully-grown world in which every detail matters, and encourages us to consider the issues her characters illustrate. The plots of the schemers advance colorfully and relentlessly. The story line of IRONCROWN MOON demands pivotal confrontations in the sequel. SORCERER’S MOON rises admirably to the occasion.

Feb 2006 Review, Revised November 2006

 

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