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The Second Empire
Book 4 of The Monarchies of God

Paul Kearney
Victor Gollancz Books, 255 pages

The Second Empire, Book 4 of The Monarchies of God
Paul Kearney
Paul Kearney was born and grew up in Northern Ireland. He lived for some years in Copenhagen before moving to the United States with his wife. As well as the first three books in The Monarchies of God saga, Hawkwood's Voyage, The Heretic Kings and The Iron Wars, he has written The Way to Babylon, A Different Kingdom and Riding the Unicorn, all published by Gollancz. He and his wife have recently moved back to the UK and are living in Cambridge.

Paul Kearney Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Iron Wars

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Neil Walsh

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If you've been following The Monarchies of God series so far, you'll find that Book Four: The Second Empire is more of the same. More intricately crafted and exciting story. More scenes of martial heroics. More moments of rug-pulled-out-from-under-your-feet treachery. More triumphs. More setbacks. More tragic moments, senseless deaths, fear, brutality, relief, love, joy of life. More of Kearney's thoroughly human characters -- from the salt-of-the-earth peasants, soldiers and monks, to the nobles, officers and higher orders of the clergy who direct their lives.

The chapters of this volume more or less alternate between Hawkwood's return voyage from the fabled western continent, the situation in Hebrion in the aftermath of civil war, and the ongoing campaign in the east. However, the book is fairly evenly divided. The first half deals primarily with Hawkwood's return to civilization, Lord Murad's return to court, King Abeleyn's return to health, and Bardolin's resignation to his new fate. The focus of the second half is on events in the east: Corfe's attempt to stop the Merduk hordes from advancing any further; Aurungzeb's attempt to eliminate both Corfe -- one way or another -- and the remainder of the Torunnan army; Albrec's attempt to convince the Merduks that they are all brothers in one faith, as Saint Ramusio and the Prophet Ahrimuz were one and the same.

There's no shortage of action, adventure and intrigue. And a few secrets are revealed. In this volume, we find out how Hawkwood, Murad and Bardolin made their escape from the western continent. We learn a little more about the sorcerous lord of that land, and how he has been maintaining contact with the old world. We learn of an 8th Discipline of Magic, in a world where it has long been believed there were only seven.

All I'll say about Corfe and his lost love, Heria, is this: I'm probably the only person I know who hated the movie Roxanne, with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah. I hated it because it's based on my absolute favourite play, Cyrano de Bergerac, which is a tragedy. The movie is not a tragedy. Don't get me wrong: I adore a good comedy. But the story of Cyrano and Roxanne makes a much better tragedy. It's just a matter of what works with the story at hand. Corfe and Heria are certainly not Cyrano and Roxanne, but their story plainly isn't meant to be a happily-ever-after. There's a very poignant scene at the end of The Second Empire, and it works beautifully. That's art.

The world could always use a little more art. And more good fantasy fiction. So if the final volume, tentatively titled Ships from the West, brings us yet more of the same, the world will be the richer for it.

Copyright © 1999 by Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh is the Reviews Editor for the SF Site. He lives in contentment, surrounded by books, in Ottawa, Canada.


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