One of the ways that Enduring Flame sets itself apart from Obsidian is in setting. Yes, we start in Armethalieh again and yes, we venture to the Elven lands again. But the majority of the trilogy takes place in the Madiran Desert. Specifically, the area known as the Isvai, home to the Isvaieni tribes. Within the Isvai is another region of import called the Barahileth, which has not even the marginal life and wells and oasis of the Isvai. Completely without water, we suspect this area to house the Lake of Fire Tiercel’s been dreaming of since the beginning of the first book.
After all, we know that at the bottom of the Lake of Fire is one of the ancient Places of Power, the Land Shrines of old, and this one was sacred to the Firesprites. This race could not suffer water in the least, but was driven to extinction by the Endarkened sometime before the Third Great War. The Firesprites had been one of the races of Light that fought against Darkness in the Second War, and had contributed one of the Council Room tokens featured in When Darkness Falls. We never really find out too much about them, but we know they were a race of fire and that their deity was the Firecrown, as opposed to the Endarkened worshipping He Who Is and the Starry Hunt for the Elves.
Another way that the two trilogies are different is the Elves. If not for Kellen in Obsidian, the Elves would almost certainly have lost the War. With their love of tradition, they couldn’t conceive that the Enemy might change its tactics so completely. Because they were waiting to meet the Endarkened on the battlefield, they couldn’t see that the new war was meant to wound their spirits more than their bodies. Thus, when Tiercel and Harrier came to the Elven Lands, the Elves were willing to house them, make their resources available, but offered no guidance for fear of closing the boys’ minds to the possibilities. It’s really a case of closing the door after the thief is inside, or whatever that saying is.
In fact, it reminds me of a small portion of Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card. In the future, people have built machines which allow them to view the past, almost as if it were a movie or TV show. One young researcher named Tagiri starts by following her maternal line backwards – entirely backwards. She watches them from death to birth. She can see then that one generation was late to marry, but the preceeding had married too early. “Each generation rejected the choices of the generation before, never understanding the reasons behind the mother’s life.” This isn’t quite the same problem the Elves have, because they are far too fond of their traditions. Kellen identified the problem midway through Obsidian, that the larger your group of Elves, the more tradition-bound they become. But the problems are similar. Also, I do recommend reading Pastwatch because it is one of my favorite books of all time, and I do not make that recommendation lightly. If you’ve been following me from the start, you know I have some serious issues with OSC, but I do whole-heartedly recommend Pastwatch.
Anyway, The Phoenix Endangered is a fairly standard book two of three. We begin to understand the scale of the conflict, we’ve met all of our main characters and their motivations, and of course there’s that dramatic twist at the end of the book. We have to wonder about the ruins of a city that was built something like twelve thousand years before – though that’s just an estimate at best. It dates from the First Great War as well, but there is very little informaiton to be garnered from what remains.
Also Harrier’s fear of and confusion towards the Wild Magic is kind of hilarious. A little sad, but in his world, Wildmages are few and far between, because they rarely make themselves known for what they are. So while he knows of magic and other races, he was never really exposed to magic up until this journey and, well, magic is not his preference. In many ways, Harrier gets to be the comic relief, especially when he and Tiercel start arguing like the brothers they’re not. Tiercel has a lot of funny moments too, but relating to people instead of magic. He’s very trusting, which is why Harrier assigned himself to protect Tyr – and why he’s usually right about the need.