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The Rose of the World
Jude Fisher
DAW, 576 pages

The Rose of the World
Jude Fisher
Jude Fisher is a pseudonym for Jane Johnson, publishing director of Voyager, the SF imprint of HarperCollins UK. She holds two literature degrees, specializing in Anglo-Saxon and Old Icelandic texts, and is also a qualified lecturer. She is the author of Sorcery Rising, first in the Fool's Gold trilogy, and the official Visual Companions to Peter Jackson's film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings. With M. John Harrison, she has published four novels under the pseudonym of Gabriel King.

Jude Fisher Website
ISFDB Bibliography SF Site Review: Wild Magic
SF Site Review: Sorcery Rising
SF Site Review: The Wild Road and The Golden Cat
SF Site Review: The Wild Road
Extract from The Rose of the World

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Jude Fisher's Fool's Gold trilogy concludes in this final volume.

On the world of Elda, the tumultuous events initiated by one fateful Allfair have triggered crisis, tragedy, and transformation. In the northern Eyran Isles, Katla Aranson, gifted metalsmith and incorrigible hoyden, has been abducted by marauders, along with all the women of Rockfall. Saro Vingo, who shares neither the zealotry nor the xenophobia common among his fellow Istrians, has come into possession of a deadly deathstone; in an effort to keep it out of the hands of religious fanatics, he has fled in company with the sorcerer Virelai (whose theft of the beautiful Rosa Eldi from the mage Rahe was the seed for all the change to follow). Aran Aranson, Katla's father, has sailed to the far north, lured by a forged treasure map; after much suffering he has made landfall on the frozen island of Sanctuary, Rahe's barren domain. Tycho Issian, bigot and madman, has succeeded in mobilizing the nobles of Istria to war against the Eyran Isles -- whose people, followers of the god Sur (or Sirio, as he is known in the south), are regarded as heretics by the Istrians, who worship the goddess Falla (called Feya by the people of the north). Only Tycho knows the base personal motivation behind his call to holy war: he harbors an obsessive passion for the Rosa Eldi, and doesn't care how many thousands he kills, as long as he can seize her away from the Eyran king who has taken her to wife.

The Rosa Eldi herself is slowly waking back to her true nature. Unbeknownst to nearly all on Elda, she is the goddess Falla/Feya, abducted centuries earlier by Rahe, who stole both her memory and her magic. Elsewhere, the huge cat called the Beast (another of Elda's trinity of deities, also abducted and enslaved by Rahe) has won free of the sorcerer's influence; it travels south, in answer to the need of the third deity, Sur/Sirio, whom Rahe imprisoned deep beneath the volcano known as the Red Peak. Like Falla/Feya, Sur/Sirio has begun to wake; he knows that the Three must again become One, but he cannot free himself alone.

Meanwhile, in a world on the cusp of metamorphosis, the affairs of human beings play out. Aran Aranson and his few remaining men become Rahe's puppets, forced into roles dictated by an ancient prophecy. Katla and the women of Rockfall are transported to Istria, where they are sold as slaves. Saro, recaptured and delivered into the hands of his brother, suffers unspeakable torments. Cowardly Virelai, physically transformed in an entirely unexpected way, discovers skill and strength he never suspected he possessed -- but still is not strong enough to prevent himself from being used as a pawn by the megalomaniac Tycho Issian. As for Tycho, whose insane obsession has plunged two nations into war, he succeeds in his quest to steal the Rosa Eldi -- but things don't turn out exactly as he planned. Slowly, in ways both random and fated, these many choices, actions, and chances spiral toward the inevitable re-union of the Three, and the momentous alteration their restoration will bring to Elda.

With the enormous cast of characters and plethora of plot threads established in the previous books, Fisher has a lot of ground to cover in this final volume. The complicated narrative that results is a bit dizzying at times, with the story jumping from one end of Elda to the other and character viewpoints alternating in rapid-fire succession (often several times over the course of a single event); also, with so much story to get through, the vivid characterizations that were such an engaging feature of the two earlier books fall somewhat into the background. But it remains a tremendously entertaining saga, with many exciting action sequences and vivid, earthy settings. Fisher writes with a nicely cynical edge; even in the midst of grand events, the reader never forgets that the world is full of casual corruption and easy hypocrisy, or that heroes are just people, with a full complement of thoroughly ignoble impulses and emotions.

There's also some effective real-world resonance in the mythology that surrounds the Three. Their separation and enslavement by the greedy Rahe unbalances the world; without the gods' guiding influence to restrain it, human nature turns naturally toward bigotry and strife. The political and religious division between Eyrans and Istrians, who've chosen to worship one of the Three and ignore the others, and the gender-based tyranny of Istria, where men rule and women are barely considered human, reflect the deities' separation and also allow Fisher to address some topical themes -- religious intolerance, holy war, rigid gender roles. These themes have been present throughout the series, but they're especially strong in this volume, in which the oppressed women of Istria finally find the strength to cast off their veils.

Things wrap up a bit too neatly, perhaps, with a (literal) deus ex machina resolution to conflicts religious, political, and personal. Overall, though, it's a satisfying conclusion to an excellent series--with just a hint, on the final page, that we may return to Elda at some future date for more adventures.

Copyright © 2005 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Burning Land, is available from HarperCollins Eos. For more information, visit her website.

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