Sunday, April 1, 2018

Not What I Anticipated - Successor's Promise

Frequent visitors to Bathory's Closet should know by now that I am a huge fan of Trudi Canavan's fantasy books, an obsession begun with Thief's Magic, Book 1 of the Millenium's Rule Series. After having read that and its oh-so-satisfying sequel, Angel of Storms (my review here), and then her Black Magician series, I finally gave myself time to savor Book Three of Millenium's Rule, Successor's Promise. And I have to honestly say,: this was not her best work.

Successor's Promise begins five cycles after the end of Angel of Storms, where Valhan, the ruler of worlds (referred to as the Raen), has executed a risky move to maintain his power - he has destroyed himself with the expectation that Rielle, a powerful sorcerer who has grown so much since the first book, will resurrect him. She refuses to do just that at the very end of Angel of Storms, after living in Valhan's palace, learning how to use her magic, and eventually realizing that the Raen does more evil than good. She rescues the boy whose memories had been sacrificed to make way for the resurrected Valhan, and this third book chronicles what Rielle does once the boy she saved, Qall, becomes an adult, and she becomes responsible for protecting him and educating him in magic. Tyen, on the other hand, who split his allegiances between the Raen and the Raen's enemies (the Restorers) in the last book for the sake of saving Vella, the woman trapped in magical-book form, continues to play both sides as he tracks Dahli. He is shown to be even more villainous as the Raen as he resorts to abominable violence to restore him. And all the while, the Restorers, led by Baluka, are doing their damndest to stop the Raen from returning.

All that might sound exciting, but I felt that this book in particular lacked the urgency and heart-pounding pace that I've so enjoyed in Canavan's other works. Much of the book was spent in "telling," rather than "showing," as they say in the writing biz. So many people analyzing and over-analyzing all the possible moves that all people could make. Instead of feeling like thrilling action, it was almost a play-by-play of the mindset of someone playing chess. So even if someone did something risky, all the action in the book felt rational and methodical, and quite frankly, sometimes a bit boring. I hate to admit that, but it is sadly the truth. Most of the book felt redundant in this idea of constantly weighing the decision to fight or flee, or determining the enemy's ten next possible moves.

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My other major issue in this work was the sense of morality that features strongly in both protagonists, Tyen and Rielle. It's clear that Canavan is trying very hard to show these two reflecting upon their actions, and trying to make the best of bad choices, and even then with some terrible consequences. For Tyen, it's about issues of spying-who is he spying on, for whom, why...and for Rielle it's questions of how best to keep Qall safe. Move to another world? How many worlds away? When is safe enough safe?  These things were so transparent and redundant that they overwhelmed the plot, and kept the character growth of this pair feeling stalled. Essentially, the glut of possible choices, all with bad outcomes, stopped these characters from having a strong amount of agency, and that just didn't resonate all that well with me. How Dahli is dealt with at the end of this book felt like a huge misstep, even though I'm sure it was deliberate. It's clear Canavan is trying to show that all people have redemptive qualities, but in the context of this storytelling, it just felt like one of the strongest instances of inaction on the part of the main characters, and I did not appreciate it.

I also did not like how the romance between Tyen and Rielle was handled - I don't want to give away details, so let's just say I don't understand why Canavan made the choices she did. It seemed out of character for her as a writer, when I've seen her write great romantic tension (see my review of The High Lord), and I didn't understand how the relationship she crafted complemented either the plot or the characters involved. If anything, it felt out of place, not truly serving a purpose. It felt like a disservice to characters I've grown to love, and a disappointment from an author that I know can do much, much better.

K Rating: 2.5/5

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