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The Sword of Knowledge Hardcover – January 4, 2005
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These three novels all take place in the same world, in events that occur 500 years apart from one another. The stories are separate, though there are well-presented references to the earlier time. (One character in the first book, who's about 10 years old at the time, is remembered 500 years later as being a Great One.)
But what held me, and what keeps me re-reading these stories, was the worldbuilding, which I suspect was the largest contribution by C.J. Cherryh. There is magic -- but magic consists only of ill-wishing or well-wishing, nothing more. How much can people do with that? And how much will that affect the (inevitable?) evoluation of mechanics and science? These three authors do a good job at exploring those questions.
The first two books are especially satisfying, with strong characters that I quickly grew to care about. The third, by Mercedes Lackey, was... somehow unsatisfying. Acceptable tale-telling, but no more than 3 stars for that one. (To be fair, I've never been a big fan of Lackey's works, so take that with a grain of salt. If you like her stuff, you'll probably like this, too.)
I've often wished for a fourth and fifth book in this series. As is the case for the best SF/F books, the world came alive for me.
Wizard Spawn is decades later and details the decadence and decay that has found the Ancar barbarian invaders who are now the representative civilization. It also is a treatise on intolerance and racism. Duran, a pure blood Ancar, discovers the depth and depravity of intolerance when he helps an injured Sabirn.
Reap is again decades later and set in a stronghold of tolerance. An island of learning and tolerance in a sea of arrogantly intolerant kingdoms, the Order is dedicated to accepting all who wish to learn. Their desire to remain sequestered is shattered by the arrival of a tribe of nomads. The nomads successfully demonstrate the need of the Order to change and more directly apply their principles.
I liked all three books. The authors were very successful in pulling the diverse threads into a well knit tapestry. The characters were very likeable and well defined. They truly came to life to express their concerns and opinions. The drive for knowledge and the desire for freedom from oppression was clearly expressed. Their was a deep depth of feelings between the characters that drew you into their world and forced you to share their anguish and delight. My only dismay was there lack of further books. The trilogy demands a sequel. There is much to be told about the future of the Order and the nomads.
Read these books, you will enjoy them.
The first book - Dirge - I was not impressed by. It was readable, but there were places where it was (in my opinion) redundant, and the villains had the annoying tendency of one-dimensional rot. 3 stars.
The second book - Wizard Spawn - is better. There isn't much on an epic scale, instead it focuses on a close-knit group of characters in the midst of a nation about to fall into anarchy. 3.5 stars.
The third book - Whirlwind - is the best of the three, and has Mercedes Lackey style written all over it. Not one of her really good books, but if you like her stuff, you'll probably be satisfied with this book. 3.8 stars.
The story centers around the Sabis, a once great empire that is sucumbing to the northern invasion of barbarians. The plot moves fairly quickly and the actions keeps you turning pages to see what happens next.
Probably one of the most facinating parts of this world is the natual philospher as wizard angle, where Cherryh cloaks the workings of science into a religion. It reminds me a lot of how the middle ages must have been when alchemists would have guarded their secret fomulas in the shadows of arcane mumbo jumbo.
Makes for an entertaining read, especially if you enjoy stories that go beyond the typical magic spells and fairy princesses.
A definite one to add to the collection.