The Boreal Moon Tale
Ace Books, New
York, Aug 2006
Reviewed by Joy
Sixteen years after the events of IRONCROWN MOON, Deveron Austrey returns to royal service. The Salka monsters are massing for war against the humans who conquered their island a thousand years ago. Huge and bloodthirsty, the Salka are too slow of mind to defeat human armies without help, but now they have help. They have learned to make sigils – amulets – which channel magic from the Sky Dwellers.
Deveron was the best magicker of High King Conrig, until he chose instead to serve the One Denied the Sky, an outcast Sky Dweller. To the powerful but capricious sky beings, it is a game to grant favors through the sigils in exchange for pain. Sometimes they kill the user instead. The One Denied the Sky has determined it will put an end to the soul-destroying exchanges between Pain Eaters and the sentient ground dwelling species: humans, Salka, and others.
The only thing holding together the fractious four kingdoms of the Sovereignty of High Blenholme is the Salka invasion. High King Conrig genuinely does have many enemies – but he is paranoid, too. Conrig wants nothing more than a Great Sigil of his own, to put a stop to his opponents once and for all.
Author Julian May serves us with a delicious medley of characters for the final struggle. Deveron and his lady stake everything on their quick-witted service to the beneficent One Denied the Sky. Conrig’s unacknowledged eldest son Dyfrig and the boy’s mother Maudrayne take differing views regarding Dyfrig’s right to the throne. None of Conrig’s official sons are legally qualified for the throne, but only one is willing to be content with his fate. It is moving to watch each son grow into his true self.
Conrig’s opponents also have involving stories. The king of Didion would ignore the Salka threat and declare Didion’s independence in spite of the Salka, except that his niece, the true heiress, has a strong following hoping to put her on the throne if he loses Conrig’s support. The former magician-king of Moss, Beynor, has every intention of winning control of all High Blenholme. Few people would be sad to see Conrig die, because of his ruthless personality, but most accept that he is the only one strong enough to defeat the Salka. Few know that Conrig is also a player in the civil war between the Sky Dwellers.
Now that George R.R. Martin has proven readers will buy fantasy books in which main characters die, author Julian May is using the additional territory to punch up the suspense. Main characters will die in SORCERER’S MOON, and you won’t know who they are until it happens. It gives to events that extra touch of credibility.
I repeat my advice to read The Boreal Moon Tale books together, beginning with CONQUEROR’S MOON, to keep your hand on the many threads of intrigue. SORCERER’S MOON is a triumphant finish to a rich, many-layered fantasy.
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