Saturday, August 25, 2007

Review Two-Fer -- "Cartomancy" and "The New World"

Last night I finished reading The New World by Michael Stackpole. But I can't talk about that just yet because that's the third book in the trilogy. I haven't talked about Cartomancy yet.

Cartomancy continues the story started in A Secret Atlas and, for the most part, focuses around the Anturasi family. All of them have trials to face.

Keles Anturasi is a prisoner in Felarati. He needs to find a way to escape from the clutches of Prince Pyrust and find his way back to Nalenyr. Jorim Anturasi, having learned that he used to be the god Tetcomchoa/Wentoki, must relearn his divine powers. Nirati Anturasi, having been brutally murdered, finds herself in a magical land with her grandfather, Qiro.

But there's more to it than just the Anturasis ... er, however you would make that name plural. The swordsman who called himself Moravan Tolo struggles not only to remember who he is, but he also faces an invasion by horrific creatures that serve the evil Prince Nelesquin. Ciras Dejote, Moravan's former apprentice, searches through the Wastes for the Empress Cyrsa. And Prince Cyron, the ruler of Nalenyr, must deal with both internal and external threats as he tries to defend his country both from Prince Pyrust and Nelesquin's invaders.

Complicated? You bet! But that's part of what makes this such a fun read. Like I said in my review of A Secret Atlas, it did take a second reading for me to keep all the characters straight, but by the time I read Cartomancy, it was a lot easier.

My only complaint is that I saw the surprise twist at the end coming. That's it, really.

That brings us to the final book in the trilogy, namely The New World.

Things have not gotten much better. Keles, having escaped from Felarati, discovers that he has incredible powers that he doesn't understand and can barely control. Jorim, having reclaimed his divine identity, finds himself trapped in the Nine Hells, trying desperately to stop Nessagafel, a fallen god. Nirati discovers the truth about her grandfather and her lover, Nelesquin, and fights to stop them.
And on the non-Anturasi front, Moravan Tolo, who has recovered his identity, continues to fight against Nelesquin, who looks poised to conquer the known world. Ciras Dejote has succeeded in finding Cyrsa's retainers and leads them into the battle. And Prince Cyron finds himself in an unlikely alliance.
This book was wild, to put it bluntly. Lots of fighting, lots of battles. Stackpole has a wit about him that keeps me coming back to his stories time after time after time.
The only problem with the story as a whole is that it was so complicated, I didn't see all of the connections. The best example of this is the struggle between the gods with Jorim and Nessagafel at the center. I didn't see how that connected with the fight between Nelesquin and Cyrsa until Stackpole explained it at the very end. It almost seemed like there were two unrelated stories in the book, both highly engaging, but I wish the connection would have been a bit clearer.
Naturally, I had a problem with the theology presented in the book. Stackpole's musings about the nature of faith and how it relates to the gods was interesting but fell kind of flat for me (for obvious reasons).
In spite of that, the climax was phenomenal and had me laughing out loud with delight.
If you haven't read Michael Stackpole, he's worth the effort. Trust me. You'll like his books.

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