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Outremer #4: Feast Of The King's Shadow Mass Market Paperback – August 26, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
As the fourth volume opens, the little group of travellers finally reaches the safety of the desert city of Rhabat, and the council of the sheiks. But safety only for a little while, before the 'ifrit make their presence felt. Again, Brenchley draws on the real world to form a solid foundation for his creation, with his depiction of the city carved from living rock.
The are two main plot threads running through this volume; one the growing love and friendship between various characters, the other the shifting balance between war and peace as Hasan tries to unite the Sharai tribes for war against the Outremer states, and the King's Shadow and Ruban of Surayon try to dissuade them from war. But the future war is forgotten for a little while, as both sides make common cause to defend Rhabat from an enemy deadly to all.
Both plot threads come together around Julianne. The King's Shadow is quite willing to use his own daughter in persuit of his cause, recognising the strong mutual attraction between Julianne and Hasan. Julianne finds herself with a second wedding arranged for political purposes -- and a second prospective husband she is in love with, political marriage or no. But that's far less complicated than the emotions swirling around Marron...
As with the previous volumes, much of the appeal of the series lies in the complex characters. They mostly try to do the right thing, at least by their own moral codes, but don't always succeed. They're human and have human failings, and one of the things the series shows is that moral codes can be different and not perfectly compatible, -- and not always perfectly followed even by people who try to do so. It's easy to become attached to these people, wanting to know what happens next and hoping for a good outcome for them all. But there are no guarantees here; characters die, and not just redshirts introduced as cannon fodder. It makes for a reading experience that is sometimes painful, but certainly intense.
There is danger in Rhabat, and it eventually emerges from the unholy, feared Dead Waters in the form of hordes of 'ifrits - spiritual creatures who take on physical form in pursuit of their evil aims. The Ghost Walker is given an ignominious welcome by the Sharai peoples, for Marron is not the mighty savior they have looked for all these years. Not only is he Patric rather than Sharai, he remains committed to his personal oath to never kill again. There are battles fought over the course of these pages, worldly ones pitting steel and bows against the claws and beaks of dark monsters, as well as spiritual battles fought within the human hearts of men and women.
It is somewhat sad to see these characters begin to drift away from one another. I find myself rather disappointed in Julianne at this point. Originally, she was a rather enchanting young lady of great resolve, but in my eyes she has lost much of her humanity and become something of a hollow player in the events leading up to probable war. While she does fight for the life of her father, her evolving relationship with Hasan and her own actions and words to devoted friends has struck a chord of disdain in this reader's heart. Marron has continued to grow in the face of unprecedented challenges and dilemmas, seeking strength in solace, but I am very uncomfortable with his increasingly more open relationship with Jemel. The sexuality in this book is rather amorphous, and some readers may well reject the entire series of books out of hand for this fact alone. While I disapprove of much that I read here in this regard, I remain fascinated and highly sympathetic with Marron. In my opinion, though, the most important character has now become Elisande. Her feelings for Marron coupled with the distance that begins to develop between her and Julianne contribute to a new depth of sorrow and isolation in this character. She, however, overcomes all of the weights pressing down upon her and triumphs in a very real sense by the novel's close.
Chaz Brenchley is a brilliant writer; few authors could introduce so many troubling aspects into a story yet keep me captivated despite my own discomfort level. I have to say I have almost no idea where Brenchley will take this series from here. War looms on the horizon, key characters have already come close to hitting bottom both physically and emotionally, and the shocking ending of Feast of the King's Shadow introduces a completely new source of concern for one of the main characters. I only know that, whatever happens, I will be there to witness it.
Outremer Book Four has put all this great structure on the back burner to investigate overly complex love polygons (triangle just doesn't cut it). Even the few action scenes (what little is there is very good), are overshadowed by heavy-handed emotional and sexual ambiguities, and resulting (continuing?) multi-party dispair.
It will be very difficult to read Outremer Book Five if I can't finish wading through the last 20% of Book Four.
This is still a good choice if you are into Harlequin romances.