I mentioned, after finishing Into the Dark Lands, that The Sundered is filled with raw power that a reader cannot help to feel emotion. I still say this after finishing Chains of Darkness, Chains of Light, the fourth and final book in the series. It’s a rush, and one that may last the rest of the day if I’m lucky.
Our party makes its way to the new capital of the Empire, a place that was once the heart of one of the Lines of Light, the location of the second of Lernan’s Eyes. Also known as the Gifting or the Wound of the Enemy, depending on your allegiance. It is, as you might guess, Erin’s mission to reach this well and cleanse it, as the first was cleansed back in Children of the Blood. So it’s no surprise that after the forces of Malthan conquered these lands, they moved their capital for fullest effect on their new, unwilling citizens. The Gifting lies beneath the highest Dark Church in the land, where the Greater Cabal sits and generally rules the Empire. Except, of course, on those occasions when the Lord of the Empire makes his will known.
Stefanos has a rough time this book. For an immortal being of darkness who never cared much for humanity, he began to ape their customs to please his Sara. Of course, given time, such pretense becomes habit and he became Lord Darclan, whose slaves are among the most loyal in the Empire. Then the rug was pulled out from under his feet and Stefanos simply wasn’t accustomed to dealing with the type of emotions he found himself assaulted by. You can argue that he is not sane for a large portion of this book.
Of course, it all comes together in a great big grand finale in the Church, at the Gifting, with all our major players together again. (Except for Hildy, the merchant who helped our heroes get from point B to point C. She doesn’t do this fighting thing, her dear boys do it for her.) This scene is also where I can really point out how much Michelle Sagara West has grown as an author over the years because, to be honest, it’s a bit difficult to get a sense of the battle. I have trouble keeping track of all the characters, and several of them seem to get shafted of screen time though they must be participating in some way.
Still, there is the final resolution to which the entire series has been building from the very first, from when the Lady of Elliath dared to part the veils of time and set her feet on the road that could see Light triumph over Darkness, the only possible road. It comes down to that which cannot be predicted, only felt.
I don’t know if you’re picking it up, but I love these books. I’ve not had them for very long in the grand scheme of things, but I’ve read the entire series twice now and know I’ll continue to return to it time and time again. There are problems, of course, these are a writer’s very first books, but the power and emotion that can only barely be contained by the pages are undeniable.
It seems this was the first time Michelle Sagara West improperly used the term “Pyrrhic” in a purely fantastical world but it wasn’t the last. I think she’s gotten past that now, which I do appreciate. It’s simply jarring to find a word that cannot possibly have the same meaning in a book where it couldn’t have happened. Of course, now I have to think about words like “vandalized” and “mausoleum,” but since those aren’t capitalized, do I really? Word origins are something of a fascinating subject for me and the etymology project I had to do in Latin I was a ton of fun, but I should focus on the subject. It’s understood that any book we read containing other languages is translated into a legible form for the audience. Thus the vocabulary we see is what we know, not what would actually be used. So it’s perfectly acceptable to use the word “vandalized” which is an internalized portion of the English language and no longer specifically refers to the Vandals sacking Rome. But “Pyrrhic” still specifically refers to Pyrrhus of Epirus fighting the Romans at Heraclea. Hell, when I play 7 Wonders with friends and Helicarnassus comes up, I say that we should thank King Mausolus for it. Then they look at me blankly and I get to pull out my art history minor and explain that the word “mausoleum” comes from the elaborate tomb made for Mausolus. I suppose that “mausoleum” is more acceptable than “Pyrrhic” because the word has become disassociated from its original meaning in common context, and now that factoid is one people can show off to their friends who aren’t likely to know it.
Long story short: words are fun, The Sundered is epic, and I’m not quite certain what book to start next considering I have another convention this weekend.