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The Initiate (Unicorn) Paperback – Import, 1986
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"The Initiate" is the first of the Time Master Trilogy, which also consists of "The Outcast" and "The Master," in that order. The series takes place in a nameless world, vaguely bronze-age, which is ruled by a triad of powers, two of which are religious and one of which is secular. The reason that religion is so powerful in this world becomes clear as the series progresses. Thar's gods in them thar hills, and they come into the world periodically to clash, wreak havoc, and overturn the very nature of human society. At the start of the series, this overturning has happened at least once that we know---when the gods of Chaos were overthrown by the gods of Order (related in a prologue, and in the later-published "Star Ascendant" trilogy). An unfathomable amount of time later, the world has been ruled by Order for so long that no one remembers anything of Chaos other than dark rumor and superstition.
The story focuses on a young boy, nameless at first, who through tragic circumstances reveals that he has a phenomenal amount of sorcerous power. He is miraculously transported to the Castle of the Star Peninsula, the ruling seat of the highest of the two religious organizations which govern the world: the Circle. There the boy, who names himself Tarod, seems to fit in perfectly, in an environment where his hunger for occult knowledge and magical power are encouraged---at first. But Tarod is different from the other initiates of the Circle. He's arrogant and hot-tempered and a bit cold and cruel, although he is also fiercely loyal and scrupulously honorable. He scorns their adherence to ritual and tradition, and experiments with magic in ways that no one else would dare. Yet the greatest difference between him and the other initiates only begins to make itself known gradually and insidiously, slipping into his dreams and darkening his personality yet further. His fellow initiates react to these changes with fear and suspicion, and gradually they begin to close ranks against the outsider. Matters come to a head when Tarod's best friend, the young High Inititate Keridil, discovers Tarod's true nature. Will he decide Tarod's fate according to his friendship with Tarod, or the tenets of tradition? Whatever he decides will affect Tarod's decision between the path of good and the path of... something else.
This is only the start of an extremely complex look at the old good/evil, order/chaos theme---an original one, which deliberately plays with the reader's conception of the two powers. The defenders of Order are not good; Keridil is motivated as much by jealousy and lust as he is by his duty as the High Initiate. The agents of Chaos are not evil; although their motives don't become clear until later books, most of them are driven by love and loyalty. There is order and chaos in *every* character, not just in the unseen gods. Which of the two powers will win? It's not clear until the end (of the series).
This book is slower-paced than the other two in the series, but that's in part because it's more of a character study than the other two, which are more event-driven. The tone of the next two is set, however, with a spectacular occult ritual in the climax that has unexpected results.
There are two other trilogies set in this world--- the "Chaos Gate" trilogy, and the "Star Ascendant" series. CG has been published in the US, but only the first volume of Star Ascendant made it over here. The Time Master trilogy, though, is the first, and the best.
I would suggest this to just about anyone. I'm a very, very harsh critic, I'll give it a 8.7/10. Although compared to most books these days It's easily a 10/10. Take note, I don't rate many books above a 4/10.
I have read the entire story more than 10 times to date. its _that_ great every time.
And its a good bit more than the old good vs. evil and good wins b-s. This is about a spiritual quest that we all face in life. The depth of the characters and thier interactions blows me away every time, they could be real people you meet on the street.
This is the best blend of magic, society, govt, and human emotion I have ever seen. reading the tales of friendship, enimity, love, and betrayel amongst the characters sort of feels like a history of another time.
I attribute this story more than anything for my own ideals and expectations for true love.
It has also set me on a vision quest of sorts to lead a more moral life and fight against injustice and prejudice in our world.
If you read one book this year, let this be it.
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