In the land of Ayr two noble families, the Renné and the Wills, fight for political advantages in this sprawling first volume
in a new high fantasy series distinguished by intelligent characters and believable politics. The Renné noblemen set out on a
path of treachery, conceiving a plan to murder one of their own at the Westbrook Fair and, by so doing, frame the other
family. The Wills plan and equally heinous act; they want to force a spunky young noblewoman to marry a handsome but subjugated
prince, in order to produce an heir who'll be their puppet on the throne. Meanwhile, Tam Fynnol and Baore, three young cousins
of supposed peasant background, believing themselves far removed from the politics of the nobles, blithely set out from their
sheltered homes in the Vale to make their fortunes. But when the encounter Alaan, a mysterious rogue with a charming
demeanor, all their plans go awry. Supernatural forces cause paths and tributaries to mysteriously and unpredictably open,
channeling the travelers into unforeseen lands and onto heretofore hidden islands, with hazardous results. Inevitably, all
paths lead to the Westbrook Fair. Russell (The River into Darkness) so neatly interweaves the supernatural characters
into the story that the magical elements seem an organic part of the history being made. This is a perfectly plotted, beautifully
Sequel to Beneath the Vaulted Hills (not reviewed), or better, the second half of a doorstopper
entitled The River into Darkness. In a world where magic is vanishing, the last mage, Eldrich, has trained no
successor nor will allow anyone else to practice the magic arts. Eldrich, you see, has had a vision showing him the world
ending in a dreadful apocalypse unless the practice of magic ceases. But long ago, the Tellerites, a dissident group, rejected
his vision; now they had secretly returned and trained a young woman, Anna Fielding, hoping she will develop into a mage
and oppose Eldrich. Anna and her followers have good reason to resent, even hate, the ruthless and implacable
Eldrich. But - what if the old mage is right?
A strange and beautiful book that offers an unusual depth and nuance of character, set forth in lustrous dialogue and prose
the texture of honeyed silk.
A strange and beautiful book that offers an unusual depth and nuance of character, set forth in lustrous dialogue and prose the texture of honeyed silk.
This is the second half of a two-volume story beginning with Beneath the Vaulted Hills. I recommend reading them both together. Set in a an imaginary world where magic is on the wane, this is a traditional quest fantasy of the very best sort: where the quests are spiritual and personal in nature as well as heroic. The focus of this volume is a young woman in training to become a mage - much to the displeasure of the last true mage who has visions of an apocalypse to come if the practice of magic does not cease. Russell's characters (and moral outlook) are mature, multilayered, and fluid; there are no clear-cut heroes and villains here, but real people making history the way real people do: groping in the dark, doing the best they can, guided by conflicting systems of belief. The story transports you into a fully-realized secondary world, beautifully rendered, filled with a cast of characters so real it seems you must say goodbye to friends when the tale is done. Book by book Russell is emerging as one of the best fantasists of his generation.
Russell is one of the best of the new post-Tolkien, post-Le Guin generation of fantasists. His work is clearly influenced by both these writers, yet unlike so many cookie-cutter books clogging the fantasy shelves these days, Russell bring a fresh vision to the form, and genuine writing skill. The publisher is calling this one a prequel to the Moontide and Magic Rise books (World Without End and Sea Without a Shore), for it's set in the same invented world some years earlier. Beneath the Vaulted Hills can be read and enjoyed without familiarity with Russell's other books, but it's probably best appreciated by reading the Moontide and Magic Rise novels first. If you like to get lost in fat fantasy sagas, and roam through magical landscapes so real you can feel the earth beneath your feet, check out this writer's work.
The compelling first volume in a series titled Moontide and Magic Rise bodes well for the one's to follow. Russell (The Initiate Brother) introduces Farrland, a world similar to our own, but caught in a struggle between magic and science. The story follows the adventures of Tristam Flattery, who epitomizes this conflict and holds the key to Farrland's destiny. A young man well known as a botanist and naturalist, Tristam constantly endeavors to free himself from and affiliation with magic. This is fruitless, considering that he was raised by his great uncle Erasmus, the last of the great mages. Summoned by Roderick Palle to help the king, Tristam discovers Kingsfoil, a plant that can cure disease and prolong life: unfortunately the plant itself is ailing. Roderick, the king, and the Duchess of Morland believe that Tristam's physic powers will revitalize the plant. When this fails, Tristam, the duchess and a band of wily sailors start out for Varua, the home of Kingsfoil. What follows is an incredible adventure at sea during which Tristam's special powers become increasingly evident, saving the wayfarers' lives and leading them to archeological treasures. A spectacular beginning of what is sure to be a successful fantasy series.
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