Strong on characters, weak on plot,
this book was enjoyable for the "moments in the lives" of the people
that it portrayed, but little else.
Journey into the Void picks up immediately
where Guardians of the Lost left off, without a break. There are
references to what happened there, summaries of what went on before, but
they are mostly done with subtlety, having somebody recount a rumor or
memory to somebody else who was not present. However, little knowledge
of the previous book is necessary.
The book can easily be divided into
several sections, which deal with characters continuously for several
chapters at a time, then moving on to others. The first section deals
with Shadamehr and how he comes to terms with being mortally wounded,
only to be saved by Alise, his love, through Void magic. The trick here is that Shadamehr
did die, but was reborn, thus fulfilling his destiny of becoming a true
Dominion Lord. We don't learn that until the end, however, because the
gods don't give him his magical medallion or name until then. Since the
plot, such as it is, no longer needs the Pecwae Bashae, he is killed,
but in a rather heroic way, saving the Sovereign Stone from a Vrykyl.
Jessan and the Grandmother leave the city with Bashae's body, and we
don't hear much about them afterwards. All of this section feels like a
remnant of the previous book, as if the authors could not fit it all in.
Gareth and Sylwith are ghosts from the
distant past. Gareth is an actual ghost, while Sylwith is actually
alive. The narrative makes it seem like these two are still working for
Dagnarus, but also against him. Dagnarus was under the impression that
he had set a trap for the Dominion Lords, but it was actually a trap for
him. The way these two plot makes me think of the Memory, Sorrow and
Thorn trilogy, where the swords were destined to arrive at the castle,
but it was important who they arrived with. In this case, however, it
would not have mattered if Dagnarus captured the Stone and brought it to
the Portal of the Gods himself, because it was the gods who took the
stone back, and the Dominion Lords had nothing to do with his
destruction. I still don't understand what made Gareth and Sylwith turn
away from Dagnarus' path after his first demise. Not the simple fact
that they were out of his charismatic presence and reason suddenly
overcame them, I'm sure.
I also completely
agree with Sadamehr's assessment about the gods: that they are at fault
for what happened. Why give the Stone to Tamaros when they knew he would
bring the world to chaos? But being gods, how can any mortal understand
their minds? A clearer picture does not emerge by the end of the book.
The second section deals with
Dagnarus becoming King of Vinnengael, something that he has wanted for
two hundred years. He is so much like a kid looking for approval.
He has all the power in the world, but wants love and respect. He
declines the kingship until he commands the respect of every
high-ranking person in the country. His plot was well-conceived,
especially since the young king he usurped the throne from was Shakur in
disguise. I thought the plot became more interesting since Shakur and
Valura started defying Dagnarus. Shakur, especially, constantly
questioned his lord, from strategy to his loyalty to his troops. For
Dagnarus still had to deal with his taan army, which surrounded the
city. He plays both sides, allowing the complete destruction of the taan
army, but through huge losses for the people of New Vinnengael.
We get all of this through the point of
view of Rigiswald, former teacher of Shadamehr. I couldn't figure out
why Rigiswald refused to give advice to the more powerful people in the
city, like the heads of the magical orders, especially when they asked
for it. I concede that it was
refreshing to see a story where people who know the facts are so far out
of the power circle that they do not even try to reach those who could
act on their information. And there was, in fact, little that anybody
could do except accept Dagnarus. Otherwise he would have overrun the
city. It was not what he wanted to do, but nobody had a doubt that he would
have done it.
Rigiswald knows a
great deal about Dagnarus, and sees through his schemes. But we only get
to see the mental prowess of the man, because he does nothing, says
nothing, and disappears into the wilderness soon after Dagnarus takes
power. He reappears later in the story for a couple of pages, without
anything significant to say.
third section deals with Raven, the Trevenici warrior who was captured
by the taan and survived. Raven is now guardian to the rebel vrykyl
K'let, who somehow broke his loyalty to Dagnarus and also survived. How
he broke away, when Dagnarus constantly claims that he can kill any of
his vrykyl at any time,
the story never tells. Since all the way back in
Well of Darkness, I have found the magic
to be so inconsistent that it is not really worth asking the why of
things like this. Raven makes friends and enemies, and turns one of the
half-taan into a lover. K'let's rebels have stolen the Dwarven portion
of the Sovereign Stone, something we find out from Wolfram and the
dragon Ranessa. Both of these stories were tedious, and in the end did
not add much to the overall arc. I think the point was to show us some
more of the taan culture, and how the half-taan gained respect because
of Raven's teachings. I liked Raven's character, however, and Wolfram's
denial of who he actually was. Wolfram and Ranessa are the ones who
rescued the stone from K'let's soldiers.
In the fourth section, Shadamehr and his
friends make it to safety by orken boat, only to be taken hostage by the
Captain of Captains. My only question at that point was whether the orks
were taking the stone to Old Vinnengael, or trying to save their portion
which was hidden in the sacred mountain. I doubted much that they were
in service to Dagnarus. I quite enjoyed the orks, and their culture was
very different from most, and quite amusing. They were very practical,
and their use of omens for everything was fun.
Here it is shown that all species, with
the possible exception of the dwarves, practice Void magic, when we were
told, presumably from a human point of view, that none of the races did.
Humans are surprised every time they encounter somebody who knows void
magic, but it makes sense to understand it, as long as the practitioners
do not fully embrace it. We were told several times between this book
and the last that the Vrykyl have infiltrated the governments of all
races. I have trouble seeing that in the dwarven society. I thought that
the chief of chiefs might be a Vrykyl, but was probably wrong, unless
the words in the epilog (when speaking about Wolfram) that a
lightning-fire would soon engulf the world, mean something like this.
In this section, most of the
supporting characters meet up, something that I really liked. Also nice
was the way that Jessan and Grandmother Pecwae left the story on the
back of Ranessa. The story had no need of them much earlier on, but at
least they got a nice sendoff after much undocumented traveling.
Almost the entire book is simply moving
characters around until they get to Old Vinnengael. So it is a good
thing that the characters are well-drawn, and that this is a character
story. I thought it would have been nice, however, if they had to pass
some milestones along the way. The authors focused on an assortment of
activities for the characters, few of which were given for a notable
reason. The plot moved forward behind the scenes. Dagnarus did not need
to become King, but he desperately wanted it. We see lots of
time-consuming antics on the ork ship, which do nothing to advance the
story. But we do get a lot of character insight.
The final section of the book brings the
four main characters into Old Vinnengael. I didn't see the point of most
of what happened here. Why insist that only Dominion Lords could survive
in the city? Nothing threatened them, and Raven survived following K'let
into the city. They didn't use their magic or armor to ascend the ramp
leading to the palace, even when the dead spirits attacked them.
Similarly, the Lord of Ghosts told Valura that she could not pass.
Valura, dressed as the murdered Sylwith, simply passed anyway. What good was that?
The "climax" of the book was a profound
disappointment, as was the lack of a real denouement. The epilog was
completely insufficient to close up the book. I wonder what kind of
sequels the authors were planning. We are told that the Stone was given to the people of Loerem twice before. We get an Adam-and-Eve story, but the ghost of
Tamaros says that the story of the second time can be told later. When?
Shakur also survives, undoubtedly to become a menace in some sequel.
Shadamehr actually asks Tamaros what the point was for the gods to give
him the stone, and he replies that he does not know. I would say the
same about the book. What was the point?
The four portions of the Stone arrive at
the Portal of the Gods. The Dominion Lords attack Dagnarus, but do
little damage. It is K'let who stabs Dagnarus with the Dagger of the
Vrykyl, taking all forty lives at once. What was the point of giving him
those lives, then?!? The dagger, being the fifth portion of the Stone,
is inserted, and the Stone disappears back to the gods.
We didn't Journey into the Void, as the
title of the book suggests, nor do we see a vrykyl (or Dagnarus; it's
hard to tell) fighting a dragon, as depicted on the cover.
Dagnarus dies, as expected, and the Stone
disappears, but the world goes on, not even knowing that great things
happened (or not-so-great, as the case may be) around them.
I felt that the book was disjointed and
didn't have enough focus. Once again, Divine Intervention was required
to get everybody to the Portal of the Gods, but their journeys were not
very interesting. Fortunately, the characters were interesting, but that
is not enough to hold a full-length novel.