Review: Darkblade Seeker (Hero of Darkness 4)

Darkblade Seeker (Hero of Darkness 4)

by Andy Peloquin

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The Hunter’s quest to uncover his past and stop the demons from plunging his world into chaos continues!

Atop Shana Laal, a mighty peak, lies Karak-ket, the twin temples. The abode of the Sage, the entity directing the activities of the demons throughout the cities of the world. Here, the Hunter seeks his next prey, to stop the Sage’s destructive plan, and maybe to find the secrets that will unlock his forgotten memories.

But what the Hunter doesn’t contend with is the scheming machinations between the cold and calculating Sage and the bloodthirsty and psychotic Warmaster. Two foes pitting each other, both seeking to use the Hunter to their own gains. Can he use them both to his advantage, or will he become one of their pawns in their eons-long game. Another piece discarded and broken.

Peloquin continues the story of the Hunter in fashion. From the beginning, we know who the enemy is. Peloquin expertly weaves a story pitting a sociopath against a psychopath with the Hunter caught in the middle. His every move will tilt him towards one side or the other. How long can he walk between the two sides, promising support while plotting treachery?

Darkblade Seeker is a roller-coaster ride full of of twist and turns and stomach-churning loops as one revelation comes after the other. More of the Hunter’s past is peeled back as he grapples with whom he can trust, and what are the lies he’s being told and what are the truth. Everything is uncertain. Every moment fraught with danger, and Peloquin captures that masterfully.

Once again, Peloquin has delivered a fast-paced, grimdark fantasy novel that fans of the genre will love. If you’re not reading Peloquin, you need to give this indie author a try. He’s proof that the big publishers can miss quality talent.

You can buy Darkblade Seeker from Amazon. Check out Andy Peloquin’s website, connect on Linked In, follow him on Google Plus, like him on Twitter @AndyPeloquin, and like him on Facebook.

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Reread of The Thousandfold Thought: Chapter Nine

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 3: The Thousandfold Thought

by R. Scott Bakker

The Final March
Chapter 9
Joktha

Welcome to Chapter Nine of my reread. Click here if you missed the Chapter Eight!

In the skins of elk I pass over grasses. Rain falls, and I cleanse my face in the sky. I hear the Horse Prayers spoken, but my lips are far away. I slip down weed and still twig—into their palms I pool. Then I am called out and am among them. In sorrow, I rejoice.

Pale endless life. This, I call my own.

—ANONYMOUS, THE NONMAN CANTICLES

My Thoughts

The person speaking sounds like an Erratic to me, though his words were collected by a Human or perhaps humans translated the Erratic’s words into a human tongue. Note the emphasis on what the person is doing. It is all present tense. He lives in the present because the past is fading. The Horse Prayer comes from far away. He is running, searching, but all he finds is sorrow. And he enjoys that, because in sorrow he can remember his past life, those he loved and knew. Immorality is a “pale endless life.”

It is an intriguing quote to start a chapter with. It’ll make us think about the skin-spies. They move like the Nonman, but they don’t even have a past. They leave forever in the present, slipping from one identity from another. There life is endless and not just pale, but colorless.

This is an appropriate quote because, more than anything, this chapter is about the skin-spies.

Early Spring 4112 Year-of-the-Tusk, Joktha

Cnaiür awakes feeling older. It reminds him of a time he woke one time while out on the Steppes and discovered that someone had, in ancient times, carved a relief into a cliff he slept beneath. It depicted a king celebrating his victory including a captured Scylvendi “from another age.” As Cnaiür comes to, he hears a man (Conphas, though Cnaiür doesn’t realize this) speaking, saying he felt pity at the end of the Battle of Kiyuth. Then he amends and says he felt regret seeing the myth of the Scylvendi destroyed. “The world became weaker.” It lead Conphas to realize he could defeat any obstacle.

Cnaiür realizes he is lying bound on the ground . Cnaiür is still coming out of his concussion from his severe beating. Conphas rants how Cnaiür meant nothing, that only Kellhus should be the “sole object of the Empire’s concern.” Conphas realizes that fixating on Cnaiür was a mistake because “What are the abuses of flesh compared with glory?” Cnaiür thinks there is no glory. Conphas laments all the casualties he took taking Jocktha, knowing Cnaiür was behind the costly tactics of the defenders. He “almost” wished Cnaiür commanded at Kiyuth so Conphas could vanquish him, a god defeating a demon. Conphas says they are kin.

“Are you,” Cnaiür rasped, “a god?”

The man [Conphas] stood, looked at him [Cnaiür]. Points of lantern light rolled like liquid across the figures worked into his cuirass. His voice possessed a shrill edge. “I know you love me… Men often beat those they love. Words fail them, and they throw their fists into the breach… I’ve seen it happen many times.”

Cnaiür rolled his head back, closed his eyes for pain. How had he come to be here? Why was he bound?

“I know also,” the man continued, “that you hate him.”

Him. There could be no mistaking the word’s intensity. The Dûnyain. He spoke of the Dûnyain—and as though he were his enemy, no less. “You do not want,” Cnaiür said, “to raise arms against him…”

“And why would that be?”

Cnaiür turned to him, blinking. “He knows the hearts of men. He seizes their beginnings and so wields their ends.”

Conphas gets mad, accusing Cnaiür of succumbing to the religion. Conpha is angry because he thought he’d found a peer in Cnaiür, admitting he even thought of making Cnaiür his Exalt-General. Cnaiür is still confused as Conphas rants why he couldn’t elevate Cnaiür to such a rank because the army would mutiny, but he thought with Cnaiür he could “eclipse even Triamis.”

Now Cnaiür realizes who is before him. Memories come back to him as he notices a “god with a beaten face.” Cnaiür laughs, stunning Conphas. Cnaiür realizes the man was sincere about thinking Cnaiür was his brother, his equal. This makes Cnaiür laugh more, insulting Conphas, saying, “Your heart is shrill and your soul is plain.” He calls it a stupid idea. Conphas is too weak to be his brother. Conphas kicks Cnaiür in the head. He only laughs as Conphas retreats leaving the tent. Cnaiür feels himself “slipping between immensities—the earth that pressed so cruelly against his battered frame and the commotion of men and their fatal purposes.”

At last, something deep laughed within him. At last it ends.

General Sompas enters and cuts Cnaiür’s bonds, telling Cnaiür his Chorae is on the table. Sompas reveals he’s a skin-spy taking Cnaiür to Serwë. The skin-spy has no problem leading Cnaiür out of camp even though he’s wearing a captain’s uniform. Conphas’s discipline holds, and the soldiers know “Biaxi Sompas was his man.”

“Is it always this easy?” Cnaiür asked the creature.

“Always,” it said.

In the blackness beneath a stand of carob trees, Serwë and another of her brothers awaited them, along with eight horses laden with supplies. Dawn had not yet broken when they heard the first of the horns, faint in the distance behind them.

Conphas, hunting Scylvendi, is feeling terror a “word he had always regarded from the outside.” He doesn’t understand how Cnaiür makes him feel this way. He reflects that his race has an obsession with the Scylvendi despite their hatred, their imagination fired by their mystique. Because the Scylvendi have beaten the Nansur so many times, its made the Scylvendi seem more manly. Conphas sees that in Cnaiür, just like his soldiers who were afraid to fight him earlier at Jocktha. He was like Gilgaöl, the God of War, given flesh.

And now, after wrestling him to the ground like some lunatic bull, after the wonder of capturing him—capturing War!—he had simply vanished.

Cememketri said it wasn’t sorcery, and suggested “Faceless Ones” as they call skin-spies, especially since some soldiers reported seeing Sompas freeing Cnaiür. Learning that one had killed his uncle has caused Conphas to admit that they are not Cishaurim since it made no sense for them to kill their secret ally. However, he can’t quite believe that they’re from the Consult. He wonders if the Second Apocalypse was on them.

Terror. How could he not be terrified?

All this time Conphas had assumed that he and his uncle had stood at the root of all that happened. No matter how the others plotted, they but thrashed in the nets of his hidden-designs—or so he thought. Such errant! All along, others had known, others had watched, and he hadn’t the slightest inkling of their intentions!

What was happening? Who ruled these events?

Not Emperor Ikurei Conphas I.

Conphas’s realization that he isn’t alone, but has men who followed him, thinking that the “ability to cede voice and limbo to the will of another” was mankind’s great genius. To follow allowed them to join together and extend power, and since he was the Emperor, he controlled it. If things are simple, he could handle it. And he would start with Cnaiür. He imagines “killing a son of his ancestral enemy” was the first step to restoring the Emperor. He sees himself as a mighty as the rulers of old.

No wonder the savage had laughed!

Conphas thinks the Gods are behind this, resenting them like you’d resent “children of a different father.” He questions why he spared Cnaiür, struggling to under stand “what vice or vanity” stopped him. He cries for Sompas and asks if he’d like to be the Exalt-General.

The ingrate [Sompas] swallowed. “Very well, God-of-Men.”

How he [Conphas] missed Martemus and the cool cynicism of his gaze. “Take the Kidruhil—all of them. Hunt down this demon for me, Sompas. Bring me his head and that shall be your title… Exalt-General, Spear-of-the-Empire.” His eyes narrowed in menace as he smiled. “Fail me and I shall burn you, your sons, your wives—every Biaxi breathing. I shall burn you all alive.”

Serwë’s “preternatural vision” guides Cnaiür’s party through a woods at night. They need to put as much distance as possible before the sun comes up. Despite his beating, Cnaiür draws on a reserve “as inexhaustible as lust or fear.” His mind wanders and then he realizes Serwë is cradling his head on her lap and tending to his wounds.

She smiled and a ragged breath stole through him. There was such sanctuary in the lap of a woman, a stillness that made the world, with all its threshing fury, seem small instead of encompassing, errant instead of essential. He winced as she dabbed a cut above his left eye. He savored the sense of cool water warming against his skin.

When he reaches up to caress her face, he notices his bloody knuckles. He feels his wound sand coughs up blood. He mumbles that he’s forgetting something. Serwë agrees, saying its the one he hunts. “The murderer.” He then says he’s the murder and rants about how men just “ape their fathers” in an unbroken chain back to the beginning. But he’s free of his people’s customs.

She studied him for a moment, her perfect face poised between thought and moonlight. “Yes… like the one you hunt.”

What were these shallow creatures?”

“You call yourself my lover? You think yourself my proof? My prize?”

She blinked in dread and sorrow. “Yes…”

“But you are a knife! You are a spear and hammer. You are nepenthe—opium! You would make a haft of my heart, and brandish me. Brandish me!”

Another skin-spy asks what about him. At first, Cnaiür thinks the skin-spy is Moënghus, then he realizes it’s Kellhus. The fake-Kellhus asks what he is, and Cnaiür is confused by this madness, now thinking the skin-spy is Moënghus as it presses Cnaiür for an answer. Cnaiür wonders how long Moënghus has been building his power. His hate fills him as they press him for answers.

“The one,” Cnaiür grated, “that I hunt.”

“Yes,” Serwë said from behind. “The murderer.”

“He murdered my father with words! Consumed my heart with revelation!”

“Yes…”

“He set me free.”

Lust for Serwë surges through him. She opens her “fake-face” and reveals her true one. They kiss with her spider-like “fingers” hugging him. “As though within a fist, she held him to her hot mouth.” He lifts her up as “Moënghus” says they must flee. Horns sound.

Cnaiür and his group press their horses hard, knowing Conphas won’t spare him again. Worse, Conphas has already sent troops south to keep any word of Conphas’s resurgence from reaching the Holy War, meaning they had foes before and behind them. As they ride, Cnaiür learns that the skin spies are “the Last Children of the Inchoroi” and are “Keepers of the Inverse Fire” though they grow confused when he asks them what that means. They don’t complain about anything except their lusts for “unspeakable congress” and that they are falling. They trust Cnaiür because the syntheses “made them his slaves,” claiming to be his loyal dogs.

They carried, Cnaiür could see, the spark of the void within them. Like the Sranc.

Cnaiür realized that while men where like tress, capable of branching in many different directions, the skin-spies were “spears concealed in the thickets of human activity.” This gives them a poetic beauty to Cnaiür as he both envies, loves, and pities them. He talks and learns “Serwë” was a Scylvendi two hundred years and has been many people since. He asks who it she now.

“I am Serwë… your lover.”

By the third night, it’s clear Conphas is not giving up. He studies their campfire and is disturbed by the number. It’s a large patrol and he’s worried that the Nansur know he’s not fleeing to Caraskand and Saubon and has to eventually turn east for the Holy War. This means there will likely be soldiers hoping to cut them off. “It would be like shooting arrows in the dark, certainly, but his [the Nansur commander’s] quiver looked deep.” Serwë kills a goatherd who surprised them the next day. Unable to bury him, they are forced to carry his body, tiring their horses more. Soon vultures circle them. That night, they burn the body and keep going for another week, avoiding men save a village which “they plundered for sort and supplies.” One night, Cnaiür makes new swazonds for the men he killed then rants his madness at the skin-spies followed by weeping. The skin-spies don’t judge him, lacking humanity.

The pursuers continue and Cnaiür starts thinking as the Nansur as the abominations, not the skin-spies he rides with. He questions if he is insane, no longer sure what the word even means. The Scylvendi cut the throats of those who went “feral in the manner of dogs and horses,” seeing it in the same way while the Inrithi blamed it on demons. He remembers Achamian’s explanation (early in the Warrior Prophet) about how madness was “a point where the Outside penetrated the world” caused by men breaking from “the trials of the world.”

At the time, Cnaiür had been less than impressed. He had despised the sorcerer, thinking him one of those mewling souls who forever groaned beneath burdens of their own manufacture. He had dismissed all things him out of hand. But now, the force of his demonstration seemed indisputable. Something other inhabited him.

It was peculiar. Sometimes, it seemed that each of his eyes answered to a different master, that his every look involved war an loss. Sometimes it seemed he possessed two faces, an honest outer expression, which he sunned beneath the open sky, and a more devious inner countenance. If he concentrated, he could almost feel its muscles—deep, twitching webs of them—beneath the musculature that stretched his skin. But it was elusive, like the presentiment of hate in a brother’s glare. And it was profound, sealed like marrow within living bone. There was no distance! No way to frame it within his comprehension. And how could there be? When it thought, he was…

Cnaiür understands that he is exactly what Achamian described. Madness came either from something diving, making prophets, or the demonic, making men like Cnaiür. It matches up to Cnaiür’s perceptions. “The problem, of course, was the Dûnyain.”

He contradicted all of it.

Cnaiür had watched Kellhus herd men’s thoughts like sheep, using their emotions to goad and prod them. He did it all with “mundane word and expression.” Kellhus acted like the Outside couldn’t breach the world, that causality couldn’t be violated. With that “elementary assumption” he had dominated the Holy War. Cnaiür reels from the insight as he feels he is in two different worlds, one without the Outside and one with it. It’s comforting to be mad because something from the Outside crept in, but in a world without it, a closed world, the idea is horrifying. Cnaiür rejects that world, clinging to the fact that “there had to be more.”

Besides, he couldn’t be mad, he decided, because he possessed no origins. He had kicked free of all earth. He didn’t possess a past. Not really. What he remembered, he always remembered now. He—Cnaiür urs Skiötha—was the ground of what came before. He was his own foundation!

Laughing, he thought of the Dûnyain and how, upon their fatal reunion, this would overthrow him.

He tried to share his thoughts with the skin-spies but they could only offer “the simulacrum of understanding” because they lack any depths. He’s a bottomless hole. They are just biological machines, not alive, lacking souls. “They dwelt utterly within the world.”

And for no reason, his love of them—his love of her—became all the more fierce.

More days passes and they near the Betmulla Mountains. The sight reminds him of how he abused Serwë in the Hethantas and thinks hew as a fool for hurting her, a “free man trying to make himself a slave of his people.” He never could find the words to speak to her. Now he tells Serwë that they conceived their child in a place like those mountains.

They loose a horse in the rough terrain. They march into the night, the skin-spies preternatural sight guiding them. Cnaiür thinks their pursuers can’t catch up to them at this pace. The next morning, the skin-spies run down a deer and kill it. It proved a mistake to cook it as Serwë warns that men come, smelling them when the wind shifts. Two skin-spies vanish into the trees as he hears the sounds of approaching horses.

Cnaiür sprints at the Kidruhil, knowing Serwë would follow. The skin-spies attack from the trees, lifting men out of their saddles, and throwing their bloody bodies back down, panicking the soldiers. They retreat form them trees and drew their bows, which Cnaiür realizes are similar to Scylvendi and they use the same horsebow tactics as his people. Serwë jumps before Cnaiür, using her body to shield him. Now wounded, Serwë keeps being a human shield as the Kidruhil encircle them.

Somehow, Serwë was in front of him. For an instant she stood, a poised beauty, arms out, flaxen hair gleaming in the mountain sun—

She danced for him.

Shielding, leaping, striking. She kept her back turned to him, as though in observance of some ritual modesty. Her sleeves snapped like leather. Shafts clattered across the platform. Others buzzed about his shoulders and head. She dipped, rolled her arms about. A shaft appeared in the palm of her hand. She kicked, swung her heel down from her raised knee. A shaft jutted from her calf. The fletching of two more materialized in her back. She cartwheeled, kicked an arrow away even as three others thudded into her chest and abdomen. She cycled her hands outward, batted away four in succession, threw her head back, thrust out her arms, caught one in the back of her right hand. Another in her left forearm.

She jerked her head to the left. An arrowhead popped from the back of her neck. She whimpered, as a little girl might.

But she never ceased moving. Blood flew out in beads and lines, flashed in arcs beneath the sun.

Cnaiür can’t look away from Serwë’s dance. “His prize.” The Nansur retreat. Serwë slumps to the ground and stares at him before she pitches forward dead. He rushes to her, crying out in horror. “When he shook her, her perfect face fell apart.” He is numb, the battle over, the other skin-spies wounded but alive.

“We must bury her,” he [Cnaiür] called.

Serwë helped him.

My Thoughts

I’ve said this in the reread before, but it holds true: never meet your heroes. Well, also never meet your mythical enemies either. Reality is never as impressive as story and imagination. There is an illusion that all those people who came before us were stronger, wiser, tougher. And maybe they were, but they were also still human. Still weak and frail and prone to foibles and mistakes as us. But the further removed we are from them in space and time, the more their deeds can shine. It might have to do why the glamour and mystique of pop star has fallen so much in modern time from the glitz and glamour of the golden age of movies to the present where a drunk rich girl can have as much fame. Social Media lets us know people in a different, though equally false, way.

Conphas narcissism has allowed him to internalize his rape at Cnaiür’s hand and turn it back to bolster himself. It’s a rather impressive bit of psychology. He’s sitting at the center of a narcissistic black hole. Once past the event horizon, all paths in a black hole, every directions of travel, bends back to the center. That is why light can’t escape. Conphas is just like that, twisting any criticism or affront to his person back to enhance his own self-inflated opinion of himself.

Okay, Bakker, sometimes you need to look at your pronouns. “The man stood, looked at him strangely” is a sentence where the man appears to looking at himself (the man is Conphas and theNhim is Cnaiür). He’s a little looser with his pronouns then he should be. Just a nitpick that could produce a cleaner prose to read.

Wow. Conphas has interpreted that Cnaiür must love him because he beat him. Narcissistic black hole.

Kellhus brings Cnaiür back into focus. And not even mentioned by name. Just him. He still doesn’t realize he’s talking to Conphas, but he knows the conversation now. Kellhus makes sense to Cnaiür at this moment when his brain is shrugging off a concussion.

Conphas’s delusions have reached a peak. Cnaiür must be an equal. After all, Cnaiür beat him, raped him, dominated him. To preserve his self-importance, Conphas has to pour Cnaiür into the mold of Conphas’s personal reality. He’s convinced himself it is true, that Cnaiür will be thrilled to be his Exalt-General and serve a magnificent god. After all, Cnaiür “loves” him. Petulant, childish anger follows this rejection. First lashing out like a spoiled brat than running away to those who pamper him, his general staff.

Cnaiür is just ready to die. He thinks it’s coming and welcomes it.

Conphas’s disciplined his soldiers so well, they just obey his officers. Those soldiers probably came up with a theory on why General Sompas wore a different uniform, maybe debating it until the uproar happens.

If you wonder about this mystique of the Scylvendi Conphas muses on, just think about Navy SEALs or Spartan Hoplites or Zulu Warriors or Samurai. Groups festishized for their battle prowess until the man who did those acts is swallowed by the myth of them. And when they’re your enemy, when they keep beating you, it makes you feel better putting them at an even higher pedestal. Then it doesn’t harm your ego. This is exactly what Conphas did in miniature with Cnaiür, playing out their race’s history of the Scylvendi raping and beating them over and over, shattering their Nansur pride.

Conphas’s narcissism is stretching to its limits now. This shows us why such powerful people reject the idea of the Consult. Because it is something stronger than them, and their egos, especially a with man like Conphas, can’t allow that. Great characterization from Bakker. As he’s on the moment of panic, Conphas finds a new way to prop up his ego while simultaneously showing off something important: working together is one of the things that helped humans dominate our world. His black hole is working hard to bend everything, even Cnaiür’s mocking laughter, in on his narcissism.

I miss Martemus, too, Conphas.

I just want to add that I love the world preternatural and am always delighted to come across it in a book.

Interesting that lust or fear are shown to be inexhaustible. They are the two most base emotions that push and pull us. It’s another way of saying fight or flight. What’s fighting, if not defending what your existence to pass on your genes. Lust is survival. But so is fear. Both are necessary to see a species, if not an individual, survive.

Cnaiür is noticing that the skin-spies aren’t real people, just very good parrots at mimicking speech. They are like an AI that could pass a Turing Test (which we’ve achieved) even as the computer doesn’t understand the emotions behind it. The skin-spy just has a great deal of understanding on how to fake conversations by drawing on its database to assemble coherent sentences that sound like human speech and responses. Skin-spies only truly understand lust and violence, the most base of emotions. They fake the rest. She can never be Serwë, but will Cnaiür care?

Is this the first mention of the Inverse Fire in the story? What’s interesting is that the skin-spies don’t understand what it means to be the Keeper. They are programmed to say it, repeating their phrases, but they don’t have the knowledge to explain it. They only pretend to be autonomous creatures. They truly are chained by the Darkness that Comes Before.

Interesting that they skin-spies are Cnaiür’s slaves. Perhaps that’s how he survived. We know one is still hanging around him twenty years later.

Two hundred years the Consult has been working to ready the world for the Second Apocalypse and then along comes Moënghus and disrupts centuries of planning. No wonder they leaped at the chance to use the Holy War against him.

They [emphasis mine] plundered the village for sport and supplies.” Cnaiür pillaged that village for fun with the skin-spies. Not the first village he’s massacred, but this time he’s not gripped by his madness.

The explanation that madness is something from the outside possessing a person is interesting. In a way, madness that breaks from the effects of the Darkness that Comes Before. They no longer respond to the world the way they should. Their minds have broken and something new, something alien, has crept in and altered how they work. I watched the movie Shutter Island last night, and a woman who drowned her own kids talked about how she had this bug crawling across her mind, tugging on her wires. She was aware that her madness wasn’t her, that it was something at once external to her core identity but still internal, trapped inside her skull, making her do things she didn’t want to do.

I think Bakker is showing us the true source of Cnaiür’s madness. He “possessed no origins.” Like the Dûnyain, Cnaiür has kicked free of the Darkness that Comes Before. He has made himself other than the rest of his neighbors. Something different. His mind works in different ways, it isn’t directed by the past as much as it should. It makes his thoughts aliens from other humans. Other. Where Kellhus only pretends to be normal at the surface level, Cnaiür does the opposite and tires to shove himself back onto those tracks he abandoned. The pair are foils and opposites of each other, both mad in their own ways, but one embraces logic the other emotion. Order versus chaos.

The skin-spies say they are Cnaiür’s faithful dogs, but they’re more like wolves and he’s their alpha. Bakker shows us this by having them hunt a dear like a pack of carnivores, showing us what they truly are.

Now the skin-spies are like apes, attacking from the trees, as violent as chimpanzees as they kill the Nansur soldiers.

We’ve seen someone catch arrows before. Kellhus did it, but he didn’t get hit. It is a good way to show that Kellhus just edges out a skin-spy on reflexes (though not strength), as we’ve seen in his past fights with them

Though Serwë only mimics being human, something we the reader know now from this very chapter, we are seeing her death through Cnaiür’s eyes. We are seeing his perception of her, so we find ourselves moved by her beauty and dedication to protect him, an almost maternal gesture on her part. The skin-spies claimed to be Cnaiür’s dogs, and she proves it here.

What a way to end the chapter. Cnaiür grieving over one Serwë only for a new one, who was moments before one of Serwë’s “brothers,” helped him bury the old one’s corpse. Identity is meaningless to the skin-spies. They are only surface level, but Cnaiür, in his madness, doesn’t care. It only matters that he has a Serwë with him. He grieves one while welcoming another. Just like he grieved the original and then found solace in her mimic’s arms.

Hi, if you like my Analysis, you can connect with me on Facebook and Twitter, and you can check out my short stories on Amazon! Also,  please leave any comments or criticisms below! They help keep me motivated!

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Review: The Seeress of Kell (The Mallorean 5)

The Seeress of Kell (The Mallorean 5)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Garion and his companions have entered the final stage of their quest to rescue his son from the clutches of Zandramas and foil the Dark Prophecy’s designs to keep the world in stasis. All they need to do is to find out where the High Places of Korim are. A location lost 5000 years ago when Torak cracked the world.

Only the Seeress of Kell, the enigmatic Cyradis, can guide them to the final pieces of their quest. Zandramas desperation only mounts. But she has her last weapons ready to delay Garion and Ce’Nedra from reuniting with their son.

Knights, dragons, curses, and demons await in the conclusion to the Mallorean series.

The philosophy that underpins Eddings’s world comes to the forefront. What does it mean to live in a universe where everything should happen for a reason and then something doesn’t. What are the consequences to causality being violated and how do you fix it. What is better for the world: stasis and order, or change and chaos?

In the finale, all of this comes out as Eddings builds on what the previous nine books (yes, I’m counting the Belgariad) have laid out before him. In the High Places of Korim, all choices are finale, including the fate of the universe.

Eddings ends his two series wonderfully. Everything flows from that confrontation then burst out into the denouement. He doesn’t rush the conclusion to his series. He lets us have one last chance to say goodbye to all his characters while giving us one last chance to expound on the theme of this entire series.

Change is good. We can’t grow if we don’t change. Getting stuck in a loop, repeating bad decisions again and again, doesn’t do the world any good. We need to look to history and learn from the mistakes of those who came before us instead of allowing stasis to hold us in place while the world passes us by. It is a great theme for a fantasy series and a satisfying conclusion to this epic series.

If you’ve never read these two series, then you need to go and buy Pawn of Prophecy. This series has great characters, fun adventure, and even interesting philosophy. From the witty one lines to the exciting action, you will find something to love in Eddings work.

You can buy Seeress of Kell from Amazon!

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Review: The Sorceress of Darshiva (The Mallorean 4)

The Sorceress of Darshiva (The Mallorean 4)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The fourth book of the Mallorean brings Garion, CeNedra, and their companions closer to stopping Zandramas from sacrificing their infant son to cause the rebirth of the Dark God of Angerak. Their journey has taken them across the vast continent of Mallorea to the ancient, island nation of Melecene. Here they may finally lean some clues to aid them on their quest.

Because not only do they have to track down Zandramas, but they have to find out where she is going and beat her there. They have to follow a trail scattered through prophecies and esoteric tales. Once they have their trail, they will have to plunge into war-torn Darshiva.

The home of Zandramas herself.

The penultimate novel of the Mallorean continues the journey through the lands of Mallorea. No longer are they truly hunting Zandramas any more. Destiny is ensuring that both groups will arrive at the fateful meeting. It’s just a matter of which of Garion’s friends and companions will survive the encounter now. Things only grow more complicated as all the story-lines Eddings has been spinning—Zandramas’s bid to power, Emperor Zakath seeking to restore order, and Urvon’s alliance with the demons—are colliding together in Darshiva.

The stakes are high as they companions creep across Darshiva.

While I enjoy the Sorceress of Darshiva, it is my least favorite of the ten books of the Belgariad/Mallorean saga. While the characters are great, and there are some great writing and events, the pacing is a little wonky. While the first series had a sense of immediacy about it, with this series it’s clear that they won’t get the upper hand on Zandramas until they get to “The Place Which is No More.” Putting Destiny, which has always played such a big role in the series, so much in control is really showing the lack of agency on our heroes as they come to accept this reality. Not even CeNedra is getting frustrated any longer.

Still, it is a great book, and it leads us into the final volume in the Saga! Next up, The Seeres of Kell and the end of Garion’s story!

You can purchase Sorceress of Darshiva from Amazon!

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Review: Sphere

Sphere

by Michael Crichton

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Norman Johnson is a psychologist specialized in how stress affects group dynamics. He is often called out by the FAA to help survivors of plane crashes and their families deal with the aftermath. So when he’s escorted by the US Navy out to the South Pacific he assumes a plane has crashed into the ocean.

It turns out to be something far stranger.

Once upon a time, a younger Norman, desperate for grant money, wrote a report for the government about how to handle first contact with alien intelligence. He said abject terror would be the result when humans were confronted with the unknown. Now, he is about to put his hypothesis to the test. A thousand feet beneath the ocean, something has been found. A craft that has been down there for at least 300 years.

A team of scientists, recommended by Norman, and a group of navy personal are tasked with uncovering what is and, if anything is alive, how to communicate with it. Staying in cramped quarters, surrounded by the crushing depths of the sea where a small mistake could get them all killed, the pressures are incredible. Can Norman keep the group functional when the discover the Sphere lurking in the heart of the craft?

Crichton’s Sphere is an interesting take on the first contact with aliens story. It’s told from the psychologist point of view and it delves into many aspects of emotional reactions and Jungian’s theory of the shadow self. Personalities conflict and clash. The unknown lurks around them, affecting them all as they struggle to understand just what they have discovered.

And that’s before things start going weird. Cricton goes a great job setting up the mystery and how it affects the characters. The answers for the story are found if you read carefully. But that’s not what the story is truly about. It’s about how people handle stress and how they can rise to the occasion, or break beneath the strain. It’s about what people can do when they’re taken to their limits. The Sphere, the mystery of it, is merely the catalyst around which Crichton has penned this excellent character study.

One of my favorite Crichton novels, blending suspense, emotion, and wonder with a pervading miasma of dread hanging over everything.

On a side note, this is one of the worst book covers I have ever seen.

You can purchase Sphere from Amazon!

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Review: The Demon Lord of Karanda (The Mallorean 3)

The Demon Lord of Karanda (The Mallorean 3)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The third book of the Mallorean sees Garion, Ce’Nedra, and their companions captured by the forces of Zakath, the emperor of Mallorea. Instead of continuing their pursuit of Zandramas, who stole Garion and Ce’Nedra’s infant son months ago, they find themselves embroiled in the politics of the emperor’s court.

In a part of Mallorea known as Karanda, demons are once again being seen. One more threat to the world grows while Garion suffers the frustration of being a “guest” to the Emperor of Mallorea. Despite the strange relationship growing between the two monarchs, Garion needs to get back in pursuit of his son and stop the growing threat of the demons.

But how can convince the atheistic Zakath that the demons are more than just a fantasy, and that the threat to the Empire is a true one and not just political maneuvering on Garion’s part to escape? Will Garion and his diverse, and skilled, companions have to employ other means to escape?

Demon Lord of Karanda dives deeper into the growing schism among the Grolims as the various factions vie for control over both the mysterious Sardion and Garion’s own son, the sacrifice to bring about their Dark God’s rebirth. Zakath, a minor, though interesting, character from the final book of the Belgariad is back and fleshed out even more. What’s clear is that Eddings had a solid backstory for Zakath and his enmity in place for the Murgos in the last series but never could organically explain it. Until know. It is rich world-building at its best.

Even better, we finally get to see this Boundless Mallorea as the characters travel to the largest city in the world, its capital, and then venture into the dispirited lands that make it up, united through fear of the imperial throne and the glue of the Melcene bureaucracy. All of our characters get to shine. Unlike with the Belgariad where some of the prophesied companions (Taiba and Lelldorin especially) get little to do, Eddings has roles for all the characters to play in the political machinations of the Mallorean court.

This book brims with danger, political machinations, and adventure. Fans of the Belgariad and the first two books of the Mallorean series will be delighted by what they read here!

You can purchase The Demon Lord of Karanda from Amazon!

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Review: King of the Murgos (The Mallorean 2)

King of the Murgos (The Mallorean 2)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The infant son of Garion and Ce’Nedra has been kidnapped by Zandramas, the new Child of Dark, to be used as a sacrifce to awaken a new God of Angerak. With Polgara, Belgarath, Durnik, Silk, Errnd, and the mute Toth, Garion and his wife set off on a new quest at the behest of prophecy to stop Zandramas’s plan and to rescue their son.

But the trail will take them far from their homes. They travel south to find it once more in the land of the snake people and from their, into the land of the Murgos. Out of all the four Angerak races, the Murgos were the most ferverant in their devotion to Torak and the most under the control of the Grolim priests. Steeped in barbarism and sacrifice, Garion and his companions find themselves in the court of the beseiged Murgo King.

They are in for one interesting revelation. Prejudices must be adjusted and old enmities put aside for Garion, Ce’Nedra, and their companions, including those new allies they pick up along their way south, to have any hompe of saving the infant Geran before it is too late. Can Garion and his companions escape the machinations of the Grolim priesthood, dark assassins, and petty grievances?

After spending the last series characterizing the Murgos as this despicable race, Eddings peels back the onions to reveal that, in fact, they are just people. Flawed and varied as any other only suffering beneath terrible despotism of mad kings and power-hungry priests. Loosing a war, King Urgit is desperate for any aid, and Garion might prove his salvation or his undoing.

The second book is a great read, building on the first book. It covers most of the original book 2’s contents (traveling through Arendia, Tol Nedra, and Nyissa) within the first third, meeting old characters, encountering new threats, and exposing the existence of the three powers all vying to awaken the new Agerak God. New characters join the party to add a nice counterbalance to the core ones (it’s no coincidence that the group with the most screen time from the last series made it into the party in this one). Velvet, in particular, is a great addition.

Eddings is clearly having fun writing this series, and it shows in the fun diologue, exciting situations, and tense showdowns. He has an entire world to play in and is mixing and matching the threats, combining old foes with new while foreshadowing things to come. Garion and Ce’Nedra are the most changed from the last quest, both grown up and both dealing with the kidnapping of their son in different ways. The vibrant and even aggressive Ce’Nedra is shrunken and withdrawn, verging on depression, while the normally friendly Garion has an anger brewing inside of him that explodes out of him, fueled by frustration and fear.

All in all, the Mallorean continues to be excellent and leaves you wanting to find out what happens next! Luckilly, these books came out in the 80s, so you don’t have to wait long at all!

You can purchase King of the Murgos from Amazon!

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Review: Guardians of the West (The Mallorean 1)

Guardians of the West (The Mallorean 1)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The Guardians of the West picks up almost immediately after the end of the Belgariad. It’s been a few months since Garion and Ce’Nedra’s wedding, and the young boy Errand find himself moving to the vale with his new adopted parents Durnik and Polgara the Sorceress. The group is accompanied by the vagabond sorcerer, Belgarath. After he and Polgara spent thousands of years working to see Torak and the Dark Prophecy defeated, they think they can rest. But hints and rumors begin to stir of a new force awakening in the east while the Angeraks struggle to come to grips with the death of their god.

Over the next five or so years, Garion and Ce’Nedra settle into their married. With a few bumps along they way, they grow to find a balance in their relationship. A balance that is disrupted when Ce’Nedra’s lack of pregnancy begins to worry the other monarchs of the world. Stability is needed for the world after the trauma it’s endured, and there are those who seek to take advantage of it.

Once again, Garion and his companions have to defend the West as new threats arise and hints that there is still more to come in the fight between the two halves of the original Purpose of the Universe. That though Torak was defeated, the Dark Prophecy still moves pieces on the board and a new threat boils beneath the surface.

Guardians of the West is a great follow up to Eddings outstanding Belgariad. He returns to his world and spends an entire book on the buildup to the new threat. He’s subtle, showing us our characters as they fit into their new roles in life, growing into full adulthood (like Garion and Ce’Nedra) while shifting many of Garion’s story role onto Errand’s shoulders. For fans of the Belgariad, it’s a great reunion with old friends.

The build up is handled well. It’s a mystery that has you, thinking you already know everything about the world, wondering what is going on. That moment of realization that there is more to “Boundless Mallorea” than that little slice we saw in Enchanters End Game. The misdirects and the plot twists are great. Guardians of the West is like the first few chapters of Pawn of Prophecy stretched into nearly a whole book.

And it works.

This is a great start to a new series with our old character. Eddings has to do little retconning to make it work, just tweaking the expectation that the final battle wasn’t as final as everyone (our characters included) believed. It follows on those dangling plot threads left over from the last series while setting the stage for the new adventure to come. If you enjoyed the Belgariad, then you have to read the Mallorean!

You can purchase Guardians of the West from Amazon!

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Review: An Echo of Things to Come

An Echo of Things to Come (The Licanius Trilogy)

by James Islington

Reviewed by JMD Reid

After the dramatic revelation of who Caedon truly is after the end of the last novel, he has to remember what he’s done. Can he face the crimes of his past while uncovering the dangerous gambit he’s set in motion to defeat El? Will the demons of his past, the friends and allies he’s betrayed, prove his undoing? Or will his knew friends still trust them when they learn the truth?

Davian has traveled south, separating from his brief reunion with Asha and his friend Wynn. With Augurs no longer condemned to death but needed to save the Boundary, Davian has hopes that he and the others coming into their power will be enough to hold back the darkness. However, evil lurks in the hearts of men. Greed and ambition swirl around him as petty officials seek to use the crisis to further their own ambitions.

Asha, transformed into a Shadow, needs to understand just what she is. Why do her and the others like her exist? The answer to these questions go back to one dark truth: why did she survive the massacre? She will have to brave dangers on her own quest to find the truth.

And last Wynn is beset by political enemies. He has risen to the post of Northwarden and heads the Administration tasked with controlling magic users like himself. He faces resent me, even from those who should love him. Can he enact meaningful change to prevent the Boundary from failing? Or will his enemies tear him down out of fearful prejudice?

An Echo of Things to Come picks off where the last book left off. The entire balance of power has shifted with Wynn becoming Northwarden and changing the Oaths. As the danger of the Boundary nears, Islington delves into the past. He peels back the history of the world and the philosophy behind it.

How can you save the day when everything has already happened. When the past, present, and future were determined by El long ago? How can you stop inevitability from destroying world and does your actions even have consequences? Are you truly responsible for the crimes you commit if it is done at the will of God?

Islington delves into these questions. His philosophical discussion is woven into the foundation of his world. As he peels back the layers, it compels you to keep reading, to understand how Caedon hopes to fight this and if the glimpses of the future can be averted? Can you find redemption for being a monster? Can you save the world fated to die?

Fans of epic fantasy need to read this series. I am eagerly awaiting Book Three! I am glad I picked this one up, and you will be, too!

(Just don’t read the plot synopsis for book three as it spoils a major, and gut-punching, moment in this book. Sigh…)

You can purchase An Echo of Things to Come from Amazon!

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Reread of The Thousandfold Thought: Chapter Eight

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 3: The Thousandfold Thought

by R. Scott Bakker

The Final March
Chapter 8
Xerash

Welcome to Chapter Eight of my reread. Click here if you missed the Chapter Seven!

To merely recall the Apocalypse is to have survived it. This is what makes The Sagas, for all their cramped beauty, so monstrous.

Despite their protestations, the poets who authored them do not tremble, even less do they grieve. They celebrate.

—DRUSAS ACHAMIAN, THE COMPENDIUM OF THE FIRST HOLY WAR

My Thoughts

I really thought I had read this quote earlier in the series, but it must have just stayed with me. It’s a true statement about Achamian’s psychology. We have seen this over and over throughout the books. It’s the criticism of the soldier who fought in war and saw the truth versus the romantic who doesn’t comprehend just what happened. So, what does that have to do with his chapter?

“Apocalypse could feel so light” is something Esmenet thinks when she first picks up the Saga. This is exactly what Achamian is saying with his quote. Reading about the past makes you remote from it. It’s how humans can repeat the horrors that have come before because the farther removed we get from events, the less impact they have. The more likely they’ll be repeated. Communism killed more people in the 20th century than the Nazis did between Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others. Yet you’ll find educated people today talking about the merits of the system because they’ve only read about it, not lived through its horrors.

Then we go to the next paragraph where Esmenet has her own Saga tattooed on her hand. She’s lived being a whore, but for everyone else who sees it, they can’t understand the poverty, smell, degradation, and simplicity of her past life. Especially not surrounded by her new reality. People will write poems about her. They will celebrate her past, showing how she was redeemed by their prophet. They will not tremble or grieve.

Early Spring 4112 Year-of-the-Tusk, Xerash

The scattered Holy War, split up on Kellhus’s orders, converge on Gerotha with the Ainoni Lord Soter being the first to arrive. He marches straight to the city’s gate, soon nicknamed the Twin Fists, to parley. The citizens are scared of atrocities. Lord Soter laughs, withdraws, and begins the siege. Kellhus, Proyas, and Gotian arrived the next day. Kellhus convinced an embassy from the city, demoralized by being abandoned by their ruler who already fled, to surrender the city without condition.

The following morning found the men of the Gerothan embassy strung from the battlements of the great gate, their entrails sagging to the foundations. According to the defectors who managed to escape the city, there had been a coup that night, led by priests and officers loyal to their old Kianene overlords.

The Men of the Tusk began preparing their assault.

Kellhus rides forward to demand answers. A veteran called Captain Hebarata curses him and rants about the Solitary God’s vengeance. Kellhus levels an ultimatum saying, “From this day I count!” The cryptic statement troubles every one.

Meanwhile, Athjeäri continues his patrols. The young earl takes prisoners and learns that the Kianene are seeking to defile Inrithi holy sites to provoke the Holy War. Talking to his captains, Athjeäri decides “if any man should be provoked to rashness, it should be Coithus Athjeäri.” It begins the start of Athjeäri’s Pilgrimage. However, they are too late to stop the shrine of Muselah from being destroyed.

Upon that ground they swore a mighty oath.

Back at Gerotha, the rest of the Holy War has arrived. They see the city as weak since they have made no sorties to test for weakness. Hulwarga and Gothyelk wan to attack immediately. But Kellhus wants them to wait. “Where hope burns bright, patience is quickly consumed.” He says the city will surrender on its own.

On the fourth day of the siege, Esmenet begins reading The Sagas. Before she does, she hears music playing in the background. She’s dealing with morning sickness. Her her body slaves, she learns that it’s a group of three male slaves showing off their skills. Fanashila wants to marry a handsome one, asking for Esmenet’s permission. That makes her feel sad as she gives it. She visits Moënghus and sees his eyes are blue like Cnaiür and feels guilty for not missing Serwë even while thinking of her own baby. Afterward, she has various meetings, including with Werjau to hear his “Summary of Reports.” It felt “deceptively routine” to her. She learns that Uranyanak, a man who Esmenet wants arrested for sedition but whom Kellhus says is too important, continues to curse him.

Her duties as Intricati busied her long into the afternoon. She had grown accustomed to them enough to become bored, especially when it came to administrative matters. Sometimes her old eyes would overcome her and she would find herself gauging the men about her with the carnal boredom of a whore sizing up custom. A sudden awareness of clothing and distance would descend upon her, and she would feel inviolate in a way that made her skin tingle. All the acts they could not commit, all the places they could not touch… These banned possibilities would seem to hang above her like the hazing the canvas ceilings.

I am forbidden, she would think.

Why this should make her feel so pure, she could not fathom.

After a meeting with Proyas, which always feel awkward because he still grieved “their earlier animosity” and another meeting with Werjau, she found herself free to do what she wants: reading The Sagas. She’s learned to enjoy reading, even hungering for it. She gathers them with the same “miserly feelings she harbored towards her cosmetic chests.” But books don’t hide her fear of aging, they allowed her to “so see more.”

“You’ve learned the lesson,” Kellhus had said on one of those rare mornings when he shared her breakfast.

“What lesson might that be?”

“That the lessons never end.” He laughed, gingerly sipped his steaming tea. “That ignorance is infinite.”

She asks how he could know, and makes a joke about his divinity, causing her to throw a pillow which instantly fills her with wonder for “throwing a pillow at a prophet.” She opens her chest containing her library, books she packed up from Caraskand. She sifts through them and feels apprehensive when she finds The Sagas. Feeling foolish, she scoops it up, marveling that “Apocalypse could feel so light.” As she starts reading, she notices her whore tattoo.

It seemed a kind of charm or totem now—her version of an ancestor scroll. That woman, that Sumna harlot who had hung her legs bare from her window, was a stranger to her now. Blood joined them, perhaps, but little else. Her poverty, her smell, her degradation, her simplicity—everything seemed to argue against her.

She reflects on how all her current power would make “the old Esmenet weep for wonder.” She’s second in power behind Kellhus. Men like Eleäzaras and Proyas have to bow to her. “She had rewritten jnan!” Kellhus promised her this and more. She also is a woman of faith now, not the “cynical harlot.” The old her couldn’t have faith, not with how many priests had bought her services.

The old Esmenet would never accept an understanding indistinguishable from trust.

She even carries a “destiny within her womb.” The greatest change, though, is the knowledge she gained. Through Kellhus, she had her world rewritten and understood the “twin darknesses of custom and appetite.” It had outraged her until she found her faith.

The world indeed held miracles, though only for those who dared abandon old hopes.

With a deep breath, Esmenet dives into the scroll, reading one of those “works familiar even to illiterate caste-menials.” To her, the Ancient North, the No-God, the Apocalypse, and the Ordeal were just curious stories, not anything real. Achamian rarely talked about The Sagas, and when he did, he bad-mouthed them. To him they were “like pearls strung across a corpse.” Achamian always spoke of those events with a “thoughtless, first-hand immediacy” that chilled her. Compared to that, The Sagas became something foolish to her and she like-wise would bad-mouth them to others while feeling smug because of her inside information. Despite this, she knows almost nothing about what The Sagas contained and is shocked to learn it’s a collection of different works from different authors, a mix of epic verse and prose.

She had no idea where Kellhus had obtained the scroll, but it was very old, and as much painted as inked—the prize of some dead scholar’s library. The parchment was uterine, soft and unmottled. Both the style of the script and the diction and tone of the translator’s dedicatory seemed bent to the sensibilities of some other kind of reader. For the first time she found herself appreciating the fact that this history was itself historical. For some reason she had never considered that writings could be part of what they were about. They always seemed to hang… outside the world they depicted.

She feels strange reading it on her marriage bed and finds herself carried away. She realizes reading “made gauze of what was immediate, and allowed what was ancient and faraway to rise into view.”

Infected by a kind of floating wonder, she fell into the first of The Sagas.

She feels it’s a curiously erotic experience reading someone’s else thoughts. She feels an intimate connection with the author. Then she realizes the book is talking about her husband’s ancestor, Anasûrimbor Celmomas. The past suddenly feels so close to her through Kellhus and Achamian’s dreams. She’s shocked to learn that there was history before the First Apocalypse. A lot of history, things she never had heard of. She reads and learns Celmomas II was born with a stillborn brother.

After this, the strange intensity that had nagged everything, from the mere thought of reading The Sagas to the weight of the scrolls in her palm, took on the character of a compulsion. It was as if something—a second voice—whispered beneath what she read. Once she even bolted from the bed and pressed her ear to the embroidered canvas walls. She enjoyed stories as much as anyone. She knew what it was to hang in suspense, to feel the gut of some almost-grasped conclusion. But this was different. Whatever it was she thought she heard, it spoke not to some climactic twist, nor even to some penetrating illumination—it spoke to her. The way a person might.

The next four days would be haggard. Jealousy, murder, rage, and doom before all… The First Apocalypse engulfed her.

Esmenet reads about the rule of Celmomas, the last Kûniüric High King (and the guy who gave the Celmomas Prophecy about the Harbinger’s return), how he was warned by Seswatha, via though Nonmen sorcerers of Ishterebinth, that the Mangaecca School (Consult forerunners) were investigating Min-Uroikas and trying to activate the Inchoroi technology, including the No-God. Seswatha’s Long Argument convinced Celmomas to act, though it was too late.

We’re given an overview how the various sagas see Seswatha, from a wise counselor to a scheming foreigner to a lunatic refugee. We get the first reference, I think, to the great Chorae Hoard at Sakarpus. We learn he was the Bearer of the Heron Spear.

Hated or adored, Seswatha was the pin in the navigator’s bowl, the true hero of The Sagas, though not one cycle or chronicle acknowledged him as such. And each time Esmenet encountered some variant of his name, would clutch her breast and think, Achamian.

As she goes about her day, she’s haunted of the images The Sagas conjured of the brutalities and atrocities committed by the Sranc and other servants. A war that engulfed everything “even the unborn.” She realizes that this is what he dreams night after night. “Each night, he literally relived the No-God’s dread awakening, he actually heard the mothers wail over their stillborn sons.” It makes her think of his mule, Daybreak, and what that name meant to him. A “poignant hope.” She realizes she never knew and feels guilty that she, a whore, didn’t realize he was “debased by hungers vast, ancient, and rutting.”

You are my morning, Esmi… my dawn light.

What could it mean? For a man who lived and relived the ruin of all, what could it mean to awake to her touch, to her face? Where had he found the courage? The trust?

I was his morning.

Esmenet felt it then, overpowering her, and in the strange fashion of moving souls, she struggled to ward it away. But it was too late. For what seemed the first time, she understood: his pointless urgency, his desperation to be believed, his haggard love, his short-winded compassion—shadows of the Apocalypse, all. To witness the dissolution of nations, to be stripped night after night of everything cherished, everything fair. The miracle was that he still loved, that he still recognized mercy, pity… How could she not think him strong?

She understood, and it terrified her, for it was a thing too near to love.

She has a dream of floating over a dark sea, fighting to keep from being dragged beneath it. She is tossed and turned by it and she sees Achamian in the current his arm “waved dead in the current.” Kellhus wakes her up and she clings to him, crying out that she doesn’t want to share him. He doesn’t want to share her.

His words remind her of her kiss with Achamian. Though she never told Kellhus, he knew but didn’t talk about it. She alternates why he hasn’t questioned her and cursing herself. It confuses her when he had drawn out her other flaws. She feared to ask while reading The Sagas. The images it conjures of destruction haunt her. “She watched it all from afar, more than two thousand years too late.” It’s the darkest thing she’d ever read, and Achamian relived it every night.

And though she tried to beat the words from her heart, they rose nonetheless, as cold as accusatory truth, as relentless as earned affliction. I was his morning.

As she nears the end of her reading, she finds Achamian soaking his feat in a river. She feels a moment of gladness and urges to make a joke, to sit down, and fall into that old relationship with him. This frightens her.

It was his fault for dying! If only he had stayed, if only Xinemus had said nothing of the Library, if only her hand hadn’t lingered in Kellhus’s lap… She felt his heart hush for terror.

Esmi, he said the night of his return from the dead, “it’s me… Me.”

She watches him sitting stun, ignoring the boisterous contest of a group of Thunyeri showing off for a group of women. Esmenet feels like she woke up from a “devious nightmare” that mimicked real life. That she hadn’t betrayed Achamian and could cry out his name.

But it was no dream.

She has memories of Kellhus touching her body while Achamian begs and pleads with her. They clash in her. She sees all those moments she betrayed him with Kellhus as she remembers the horror in Achamian’s eyes. She is horrified that she could betray Achamian like this. She things she’s not capable. Then she remembers she sold her daughter into slavery. Clutching her pregnant belly, she fled, leaving a survivor of the Apocalypse to grieve “his single trust” and to mourn “the whore, Esmenet.” That night, she finished The Saga, and wept as she finished it.

She wept and she whispered, “Akka.” For she was his world, and all lay in ruin.

Achamian is dreaming that he’s in Golgotterath, the Ark-of-the-Skies with Nau-Cayûti, the son of King Celmomas. As he dreams, he hears someone calling his real name, begging for him. They have spent days in the dark, “too terrified to dare any light.” They are using the sapper tunnels the Sranc built during Celmomas’s siege of Golgotterath that “dissolved in acrimony and cannibal pride.”

Who would dare what Seswatha and the High King’s youngest son now dared?

The distant voice asks Achamian to wake up as in the dream, he and Nau-Cayûti have reached a postern that leads into the Ark itself, the entrance at a strange angle since the Ark didn’t crash level. Sranc lounge outside of it. Seswatha things it’s madness to continue, but the woman Nau-Cayûti loves in here. He will save her and leaps across a gap to a smaller entrance. The voice continues to intrude and Achamian comes awake.

Akka, you’re dreaming...

A spark of light, frail and glaring.

“Please…”

At first she seemed an apparition before him, a glowing mist suspended in void, but as he blinked, he saw her lines drawn off into darkness, the lantern illuminating her oval face.

“Esmi,” he croaked.

He’s confused that she’s there, that his Wards hadn’t awakened him. He’s still clutched by “the horror of Golgotterath.” He sees she’s been crying, but she flinches when he tries to hug her, reminding him who she’s with. He asks her why she’s there, and she has to tell him something.

Her face crumpled, then recomposed. “That you are strong.”

She fled, and once again all was dark and absolute.

The Synthese flies through the night. “Urgency did not come easily to such an ancient intellect.” It is introspective, though thoughts are limited by being in the construct. It has been thousands of years since they had a true contest. Kellhus has upset all their plans and the Holy War has been “reborn as an instrument of unknown machinations…” It is shocked that Kellhus, a vermin, could be so cunning.

Golgotterath would not be pleased with this new disposition of pieces. But the rules had changed.

There were those who preferred clarity.

My Thoughts

Back to war and the Historical scope with the siege of Gerotha. We can see just how badly shaken the Fanim are. The Kianene have abandoned their subject people, the Xerashi, and this has demoralized the leadership. Belief is everything in war, and they believe they’ve lost. But the fanatics in there aren’t about to give up with out a fight. This leads to Kellhus cryptic threat and the “hope” of the people that they need to surrender if they want to survive. This will consume their patience with the coup and… the city will surrender itself. He’s applying his knowledge of humans to the group level.

I think Esmenet sees something in young Fanashila. She sees herself in the girl, the way the girl has no control over her life. Esmenet was lucky to marry over her social status, but this girl can only marry another slave.

Deceptively routine… Interesting. We know Werjau is maneuvering against Esmenet. Nice bit of foreshadowing for something that goes no where.

Some people like to bitch about their bosses but are happy when given importance. They might never like the boss, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do their job properly. Kellhus is the type of boss that doesn’t have an ego so it doesn’t bother him if people curse him.

Esmenet is still that same whore as before, but now she sees herself as elevated, better than all the others because of Kellhus. She’s reveling in this knowledge. It’s a self-deception that makes her feel special, pure. Something she hasn’t been in a long time, not since she was a child before her father raped her. Last chapter, Xinemus said she smelled horny, well, she is horny a lot of the time it seems. She always enjoyed sex as a whore. She always tried to own her pleasure, which is why her encounter with the Synthese in book frightened her because she didn’t own her pleasure that time. She was just a puppet being controlled through bliss and rapture. She still owns her pleasure. She feels her attraction and can control who gets it more effectively than before. For now, she thinks that’s only Kellhus so by denying her desires she reaffirms her special status as Kellhus’s wife. She’s reinforcing her own identity the way we all do.

Esmenet thinks she’s old, but in our society she would be seen as young. She’s only in her late twenties right now. But when you marry at fourteen or sixteen, that’s a woman that would have a few kids in their society.

Even to a Dûnyain, ignorance is infinite.

Kellhus does a good job keeping Esmenet believing in his divinity even while playing the role of her lover. While Kellhus may care for Esmenet in his own stunted way, he has to pretend to be what Achamian is natural. It makes him seem human to Esmenet, keeps her invested in the relationship.

Yeah, it’s hard to believe in a religion when the priests of it violate its teachings by paying to have sex with you.

It’s sad hearing Esmenet talk about her faith. She’s merely traded one dogma’s darkness for another. No longer is custom binding her, but Kellhus. There is no escape in this world from cause and effect, not even for the Dûnyain. That is their goal. To attain the Absolute, to become a self-moving soul. Perhaps Kellhus found this at the very end of The Unholy Consult. His son certainly did. We’ll have to wait for the final series to find out.

That’s a nice touch. How Esmenet would feel smug because she knew about the Apocalypse from Achamian, her “doorway to the past.” Don’t we all get that when we know something that someone doesn’t. Something secret and of seeming great important. Then we get to explain and talk like we have any idea what we’re discussing when it’s truly just second or third-hand information were passing off as truth. Why?

Because we get that dopamine rush in our brain, and that makes us feel good.

The Sagas are a mix of literary styles, much like Bakker’s Second Apocalypse series, from the limited 3rd person and intimate POVs to the “prose chronicles” of the historical settings.

Anyone who has ever seen an illuminated, medieval bible can appreciate how a work can itself be historical divorced from what the contents are about. It makes you wonder about the person who produced a book that is as much a work of art as the contents of the writing.

You don’t become an author without loving reading, so never be surprised to have passages in a book talking about how books carry you away to another world. Make the world gauzy is a nice metaphor from Bakker.

Celmomas was a twin whose brother died in childbirth. His namesake, Kelmomas, has a similar relationship with a twin brother. It’s an interesting literary device to have these two character mirror each other. But both have vastly different fates.

I’ve had books do this to me like The Sagas do to Esmenet. Consume me. Leave me thinking, locked in a world, transported from my own to ponder things that shouldn’t bother me, but did. Words that affected me to my core and shook my foundations.

So, the Heron Spear… What happened to it? If you didn’t know, it’s a powerful laser brought by the Inchoroi and the only weapon that could kill the No-God. Seswatha got his hands on it. The Scylvendi, supposedly, carried it off after looting a city, its fate unknown. Another laser is seen at Golgotterath, but it’s not the same one as the Heron Spear, its light a different color. After the events of The Unholy Consult, I hope someone can find it.

What’s a navigator’s bowl you’re asking? A compass. The earliest ones were bowls of water with the needle floating on it pinned to the bottom.

Esmenet is beginning to realize what Achamian truly felt for her. She’s gaining empathy for him. An empathy she’s warred against since he returned since he was the proof of the crime she committed with Kellhus, the betrayal she tries to forget because he threatens her current happiness. She meant more to Achamian then she can ever mean to Kellhus. She’s trying to deny what she’s feeling, because it’s her love for Achamian rising up again, no longer buried by grief, mourning, acceptance, and her newfound happiness. In other stories, this would be the shift of her working back towards Achamian. To having their reunion at the end of this novel. It comes so close…

But she’s a mother. And that’s more important to her then being a woman.

I am sure Kellhus has his reasons not to pry at Esmenet about Achamian. Perhaps he needs Achamian to feel there is some hope of getting Esmenet long enough to gain the Gnosis from him? Perhaps he needs her to fully feel her love so he can cut it out of her in a whole and clean manner.

She lists all the things she’s angry about: him dying, him leaving, Xinemus bringing up the library that lead Kellhus away, and her hand lingering in Kellhus’s lap, awakening her to new possibilities. If only she hadn’t let herself be seduced, she would be sitting with Achamian the way she used to, his morning once again. That’s what she’s truly angry at herself about. Allowing herself to love someone else.

Nau-Cayûti fell in love with a woman that wasn’t his wife. His wife was jealous. She plotted with the Consult, arranging for the girl to be kidnapped. Seswatha than used this to convince Nau-Cayûti to steal into Golgotterath and retrieve the Heron Spear. They are successful, though the girl isn’t found… intact. Like any myth, going into the underworld, into Hell, to save a loved one never works out for the hero. Nau-Cayûti returns home to his wife and she gives him a poisoned drink. Everyone thought he died, but he was left in a paralyzed stupor, buried alive, then dug up by the Consult and taken to Golgotterath to become the No-God. Perhaps stealing the girl was the first attempt to capture Nau-Cayûti and he managed to escape, so they went with Plan B.

Bakker employs a subtle way to show when Achamian wakes up. “Akka, you’re dreaming…” It switches from italics to normal in mid sentence, making that transition.

“That you are strong.” This is the only way that Esmenet can tell Achamian right now that she still loves him. She can’t admit the truth to herself. Not when Kellhus’s child grows in her belly. Not when she thinks she loves the Warrior-Prophet, the God Incarnate.

And we end with the even the ancient enemies of the world, these beings who are the equivalent of Sauron and Morgoth from Tolkien’s legerdemain, are realizing that Kellhus is a true threat. No more taking their time. That has only allowed him to take command. They have to listen to the Scylvendi. This is tacked onto a chapter all about what the Synthese and the Consult has already done, giving us more glimpse into the horrors of the last Apocalypse. It tells us what the stakes are via Esmenet’s fresh eyes. It’s no coincidence he appears here at the end of a chapter focused on her since she’ll be the next “benjuka plate” where the contest will be held.

If you want to read more, click here for Chapter Nine

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