Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey
After reading Banewreaker, I did something that I rarely do–I immediately picked up the next installment. (Well, immediately for me. I read Remarkable Creatures between both parts to cleanse the palate.) I think I picked up Banewreaker at exactly the right time; I just want to gorge myself on fantasy deconstructions. While I was very pleased with the structure of Banewreaker, which avoided an infuriating cliffhanger in favor of a story with a natural lull in the action, I just had to finish the story. I’ll do my best to keep this review fairly spoiler-free, but I can make no promises. Enter at your own risk, you strange, wondrous people who don’t like spoilers.
Godslayer picks up where Banewreaker left off. Haoman’s Allies, the forces of Men and Ellylon, march on Darkhaven, the home of Satoris Third-Born, one of the seven Shapers of the world, cast off by his divine siblings for refusing to retract his Gift of desire from Men. Despite all the efforts of Darkhaven, especially the efforts of Satoris’ beloved and respected Three, the ancient prophecy that tells of the end of Satoris is being, slowly but surely, fulfilled–the Bearer of the Water of Life makes his way to Darkhaven, the Were have chosen to remain neutral, and the Dwarfs march with the forces of men. Will the forces of Darkhaven be able to defend themselves against those who consider them the ultimate evil?
Much of what I praised in my review of Banewreaker remains true. The thoughtful deconstruction of Tolkien’s world continues, with the Ellylon stepping in for the elves and the Fjeltrolls for the orcs. While The Sundering is a deconstruction of The Lord of the Rings, Carey feels free to riff on the entirety of Middle-Earth; the Silmarils have an analogue in the Soumanië, three powerful rubies. Since I haven’t read The Silmarillion, I can’t comment too much on it, although Carey uses it well. I was a bit thrown off when Dani and Thulu, our Frodo and Sam analogues, were referred to as “smallfolk”, but I calmed down when I realized that the Fjeltrolls call everyone smaller than them that. In Godslayer, we see more of the cultures of Men, which I enjoyed–two republics fight against Satoris not because they think it’s right or wrong, but because it’ll work out better for them in the long run. We also get hints of fantastical languages, but only when a character encounters a language barrier–exactly how it ought to be used. The world of The Sundering is both lovingly familiar and remarkably well-constructed.
I’ve noticed that the jacket copy on both Banewreaker and Godslayer make too much of the relationship between Tanaros, the immortal Commander General of Satoris’ army, and Cerelinde, the Ellyl noblewoman kidnapped to avert the prophecy. I was almost concerned they’d fall in tragic love, but Carey handles it subtly and wonderfully. I wish I could say more, but I can’t–all I can say is that I loved Cerelinde’s character arc, tragic as it is. I don’t think there are any new viewpoint characters introduced in Godslayer, but the character development just gets better. I was also impressed with how swiftly Carey orients the reader back into the world of The Sundering; there’s a mythic, two page prologue, and then we’re back in the saddle. Carey has utterly spoiled me; while I’ve only read two of her books, this is clearly a woman who knows how to write a series. I will only rail louder at those who do not in the future.
On Jacqueline Carey’s website, she characterizes The Sundering as “an epic tragedy”, which is very apt. Characters learn to doubt what they’ve always been taught. Characters with the best of intentions end up making mistakes with enormous consequences. This is certainly not a happy book, but it is a riveting one. Carey flows smoothly from viewpoint to viewpoint, answering and raising questions masterfully. Banewreaker’s disparate plot threads come together in Godslayer–everything is converging on Darkhaven, as Satoris puts it early in the book. Godslayer, more than Banewreaker, focuses on choice–such as the choice to kill someone or the choice to let them live. It also brings up an almost Hindu cyclical view of the world in contrast to the more linear (and Anglo-Saxon) view of Haomane’s Allies, the side of “good”, which I quite enjoyed. Carey even throws in a mildly ambiguous ending seemingly just for me; this tragedy could repeat itself or the world could be reborn. Your pick.
Bottom line: Brush up on your Tolkien so you can settle into Jacqueline Carey’s loving and deep deconstruction of The Lord of the Rings in The Sundering. This is how series are supposed to be written. You have got to make this series a priority.
I rented this book from the public library.