Spirit of the Stone
It seems that the world of Spirit of the Stone was once a sort of zoo. There are several intelligent species, from humans to dragons to giant insect-things to the otterlike Dobarchu, all of whom are kept sequestered in individual environments by magical curtain walls. But at some point, for some reason, the godlike beings who maintained this zoo went away. Now, after millennia, the curtain walls are starting to come down.
In the first book, which I haven’t read, the human city of Tiarond was devastated by terrifying winged predators from beyond the curtain wall. Thousands were slaughtered. As Spirit of the Stone opens, we see the results of this catastrophe. Terrified refugees pack into the Basilica of the god Myrial, where a provisional government is set up to find ways to feed and care for them. More survivors flee eastward, hoping to find refuge in the lands of the reivers. And a ragtag band of thieves struggles to survive in the deserted city itself.
Meanwhile, these events have caused a shakedown of power in the Shadowleague. The Shadowleague seems to be an organization with members from many of the intelligent species. They hold esoteric knowledge which allows them to pass through the curtain walls and communicate with each other telepathically. What the role of the Shadowleague has been I do not know; now it must find some way to deal with the chaos that looms. The leader of the Shadowleague, Cergorn, is hidebound and inert in the face of danger. A rogue former-member, Amaurn, wants to take over – but he seems to have been the villain of the first book.
Maggie Furey has succeeded in creating a very interesting world. Her great strength as a writer is her ability to create complex characters. There is no easy-to-follow, white-hat-versus-black-hat scheme here. The “good guys,” in their desperation, sometimes do the wrong thing – as when Cergorn, the majestic centaur leader of the Shadowleague, blames his personal tragedy on his loyal followers. The “bad guys” unexpectedly become compelling – like the fanatic Zavahl, who turns out to be one of the book’s more sympathetic characters. This complexity marks many of the other main characters as well: Gilarra, the inexperienced and insecure leader of the humans taking refuge in the Basilica; Galverron, her right-hand-man, who may decide he is justified in betraying her; and of course Amaurn, who (I believe) tampered with the curtain walls, and is therefore personally responsible for the thousands who died in Tiarond. Which direction these characters are going to jump in the next book, I really could not say – and I like that feeling.
What I don’t like is the bewilderment of starting in mid-story. I made a list with the names and descriptions of over thirty characters on it, and I referred to that list frequently. The narration hops around from storyline to storyline, and with this many characters that can be extremely confusing. Some storylines are simply dropped for hundreds of pages at a time, and there are several characters who I simply have no idea where they came from and how they’re going to fit in to things.
Also, the author packs a whole lot of stuff into one book. Because of that, some things suffer. As I’ve said, the book features many excellent, in-depth characterizations; but some of the book’s most important characters – the Loremaster Veldan, most notably – are barely cardboard. Who is she and what makes her tick? Don’t ask me – that must have been covered in Book One.
Clearly, the Shadowleague trilogy is meant to be read as one work. Having read only the second of three chapters, I have only had an incomplete glimpse at it, which is a somewhat unfair basis upon which to judge it. Nevertheless, even with an unsettling case of Sequel Confusion, I enjoyed Spirit of the Stone and I’m intrigued by its author’s talent. If you’re interested in this series – and if you like good fantasy, you may well be – I suggest you start with The Heart of Myrial. I plan to find it and read it, myself.
|Review Date:||August 30, 2002|