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The Blending
Sharon Green
Avon EOS Books

Volume 1 Convergence
Volume 2 Competitions
Volume 3 Challenges

Convergence
Competitions
Challenges
Sharon Green
Sharon Green was born and raised in Brooklyn, graduating from New York University in 1963. She married in 1963, bore three sons and was divorced in 1976. She raised them on her own in New Jersey while working as a correspondent for AT&T, a general assistant in a construction company and an assistant sales manager for an import firm until 1984 when she began to write full-time.

Sharon Green Website
ISFDB Bibliography
Except: Challenges

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Robert Francis

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Sharon Green's The Blending series shows us that power corrupts -- but hopefully not absolutely. The Empire in which this series takes place is a land of elemental wonders, where many of the populace have at least some ability to control Earth, Air, Fire, Water, or Spirit. Most, however, have only the barest of abilities. For a lucky few, though, the Talent they possess is vast. And, as tradition dictates, the strongest of all are called from the corners of the Empire to gather every 25 years, to learn the art of Blending. For, when one of each Talent joins together in a Blending, their Talents, melded, provide almost unimaginable power. Blendings of the strongest Talents compete to determine the strongest Blending of all, who then rule the Empire for the next 25 years.

Tradition states that the strongest Blending must be found to stand ready to defend the land, for, as tradition has it, one day a warped Blending missing the Spirit which provides balance and empathy will return to try and once again oppress the land and its people. Of course, it has been 300 years since the Dreaded Fourfold Blending was defeated, and so no one really takes that part of the tradition seriously anymore.

Okay, I'll admit this sounds a bit melodramatic. And I'll admit that the first thing that drew me to the first book of the series was the Tom Canty cover -- I'm a sucker for them. I don't buy any book because of the cover, but I'll always at least pick up and skim a book with a good Canty. As I was leafing through that first book, Convergence, I was also caught by the basic premise -- that something had gone wrong with a society's effort to save itself from disaster, because the disaster was taking too long to happen. This sounded like a refreshing twist to the Heralds of Valdemar paradigm. Haven't you Mercedes Lackey fans suspected that without those Companions to keep them in line, the Heralds would sooner or later degenerate into a self-serving power elite?

As you get into this series, you'll discover that is precisely what happened in the Empire. Those first powerful adepts who defeated the Fourfold Blending became an aristocracy of sorts, and as time went on, their descendants became aristocrats in fact, with all of the prerogatives, and in-breeding, that normally occur in an insular aristocracy. Unfortunately for the aristos, the genetic traits which gave someone a Talent were so widely spread throughout the Empire that strong adepts kept popping up in the darnedest, and most embarrassing, places. I mean, what self-respecting magical Talent would manifest itself in a mere stablehand, or a farmer, or a scullery maid. And, with all their in-breeding, the nobles' Talents were gradually weakening. So, like any enlightened ruling class, they began to cheat to hold onto power.

The competitions held every 25 years began to be rigged in favour of the noble Blendings, so that the aristocratic class's prestige and power would remain unchallenged. And what about the return of the Enemy? Well, for one thing, they were 300 years late. And for another, anyone who was anyone just knew that some musty old terror from the past, who obviously wasn't up on the latest fashions, had no chance against the best that the nobles had to offer.

Too bad our five heroes are, for the most part, not to the manor born. Our heroes are: a courtesan, a farmer, a ship captain, a merchant's daughter, and oddly enough, a nobleman. Despite tough beginnings for some of them, either lowly stations or abusive pasts, these five are truly good and decent people thrown into the intrigue and corruption surrounding the competitions for the next Ruling Blending.

Through these good people, we see how low the Powers-That-Be have sunk in order to ensure that they keep from becoming the Powers-That-Were. And we wonder if these good and noble people have a chance to save themselves, not to mention triumph, against the fate set aside for uppity commoners, and out-of-favour nobility, who dare to reach above their appointed station. No one cares that our heroes are motivated not only by self-preservation (did I mention that non-noble Blendings always seem to end up puréed?) but also by a desire to help the oppressed masses and defend against the Enemy. And no one cares, or is aware, that the Enemy may already have returned.

I really have only one gripe with these books. Ms. Green boxed herself in a bit by making her heroes too good and too decent. To heighten the drama and tension in the story, there is not only pressure on our group from the outside -- those nasty aristos rigging the contests -- but also from within the group. Okay so far, but with five people this darned nice, the only way the author could generate tension between them was either through honest misunderstandings or through conflicting sets of noble ideals. After three books, the continual honest misunderstandings get a bit tiring. Don't these people ever learn? Don't get me wrong: there are some authors like C.J. Cherryh who have written masterpieces which revolve around misunderstandings between characters of different cultural backgrounds or species. It can be done; but the premise of this series makes it very hard. The conflicting noble ideals get a bit tiring after a while, too.

Despite this, I have enjoyed the series, and recommend it especially to those who have enjoyed Mercedes Lackey's ever-expanding Heralds of Valdemar (and related) series or Tanya Huff's Quarters Series. This series is one that you must start at the beginning as the books are tightly interlocked, unlike Adam Lee's Dominions of Irth books which could almost be read as stand-alones. I should also warn you that Ms. Green seems to have a habit of making the end of each book a cliff-hanger. Although I have not seen any indication of how many books will ultimately be in this series, given that the cover of each book to date in the series has featured a different one of the main characters, I suspect that there will be a minimum of five books. At least two more to go, and I'm looking forward to them both!

Copyright © 1998 by Robert Francis

Robert Francis is by profession a geologist, and, perhaps due to some hidden need for symmetry, spends his spare time looking at the stars. He is married, has a son, and is proud that the entire family would rather read anything remotely resembling literature than watch Jerry Springer.


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