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The One Kingdom
Sean Russell
HarperCollins Eos, 463 pages / Orbit, 550 pages

The One Kingdom
The One Kingdom
Sean Russell
Sean Russell is a fantasy writer living on Vancouver Island. His previous novels include The Initiate Brother (DAW 1991) and its sequel, Gatherer of Clouds (DAW 1992), and the two books of Moontide and Magic Rise -- World Without End (DAW 1995) and Sea Without a Shore (DAW 1996).

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Sean Russell
SF Site Review: The Compass of the Soul
SF Site Review: Beneath the Vaulted Hills
SF Site Review: World Without End

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

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When is the last time you came to the last page of a hefty novel and wondered where the other chapters were? Have you ever zoomed through that many pages and scratched around frantically, hoping that there is more to come, that you just haven't found it, yet? Not often, if ever, I'm betting, because fantasy series as good as this just don't come along that often.

The One Kingdom is a kingdom in name alone; a twist in succession left the land with no ruler and two families forever at swordpoint. The powerful Renné and Wills families want one of their own on the throne, even if the process tears the kingdom apart. There are those within the families who would envision peace and an end to the feud, but few are moved to follow them. Many, in fact, would see the peacemakers dead, rather than "give in."

The heir apparent, Toren Renné, plans to take the first step in achieving a lasting accord. Elise Wills, also in a position to vie for the throne, will run rather than take part in a marriage that will certainly bring war to the kingdom. Between these extremes, the lives of every citizen will become touched and many will die. For some, there is no price too high to place one of their own on the empty throne of the Two Swans.

If I left the review there, you would probably be interested enough to read The One Kingdom, but you would have no idea of the wealth of detail and depth of the novel. To borrow one of Russell's own images, the novel is a rich, complex tapestry that divulges fresh aspects with every new viewing. Disparate threads of narrative flow through the tale, not yet touching or even aware of the other lines that are coming together to form the intricate pattern of the masterpiece.

Plots, subplots, and illustrative asides move along at their own pace, in their own given niches, inexorably caught in the powerful tow of the central conflict. Woodsmen, peasants, minstrels, lords, and highwaymen enter the spotlight and add their essential piece to the story, only to retreat for awhile until the action brings them forward again. Every character clearly, but subtly defined, regardless of how brief or lengthy their moment under scrutiny.

Russell's flair for description not only brings to life the characters, human and otherwise, in The One Kingdom, but the location itself. The river and the mysterious lands along its length come vividly to life under Russell's touch. The atmosphere drifts stealthily out to enfold the reader in this magic and mesmerizing setting, to be carried afloat on the pure bliss of the narrative.

So, at the close of The One Kingdom is every question answered? Of course not! What would be the point, then, of future volumes? Instead, the final scene comes only as an opportune moment for a quick breather, ensuring we will be fully refreshed and eager to resume when the next novel appears. It cannot appear too soon -- the tale of The One Kingdom summons like the call of a bird, a special bird.

Copyright © 2001 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. DARKERS, her latest novel, will be published in early 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She has also written for BOOKPAGE and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Her articles and short stories are all over the map. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.


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