HARSHINIA novel by Jennifer Fallon
(2006, TOR Books)
The Hythrun Chronicles: Demon Child Trilogy, book 3
As the Kariens overtake Medalon, R'shiel flies from nation to nation to bring peace and support, in her effort to destroy the evil god.
-- First reading (paperback)
Consistent with the previous two volumes in this trilogy, this book was quite enjoyable. It traveled to Hythria, Fardohnya and Medalon, as well as visiting the Karien culture through the occupying forces, and the Harshini stronghold in hidden Sanctuary.Spoiler review:
The first half of the book deals with securing the Hythrian throne for Damin Wolfblade. R'shiel, of course, insisted that he and Adrina get married as soon as possible at the end of Treason Keep, which creates certain drama when Damin arrives home. His mother and sister don't approve, because Adrina is Fardohnian. As Damin's cousin has recently died, he is now the crown prince, except that another warlord has claimed the title. It is certain civil war, even if Damin can get a majority of warlords on his side. I don't know what the point was in having Adrina kidnapped. She was rescued so easily by R'shiel and Damin that it didn't have any repercussions -at all. Damin does get most of the warlords on his side, but the capital is located in the usurper's territory, so he is quick to lay siege to the capital, and nearly overruns it.
However, R'shiel sent Brak to get aid from the King of Fardohnya, who laughs in his face. But when R'shiel arrives, she promises to talk to the goddess of fertility to get the King a male heir, which changes his mind. He sends Adrina's half-brother with a fleet to help Damin, and they arrive in the nick of time -except that Damin's city is burning already. What really saves the day are the hundreds of Medalonian Defenders, formerly led by R'shiel and Tarja after she was rescued at the end of the last book.
The politics were interesting, but the siege wasn't, not really. I wondered if it couldn't be replaced with something more substantial. I liked the way Damin saved Adrina's half-brother by removing him from the line of potential heirs (and therefore list of people to be assassinated when the true Fardohnian heir was born) by making him a Hythrian warlord.
So not only do we get peace in Hythria, but Fardohnya is now at peace with its neighbors for the first time in a long while. R'shiel's dream of peace is halfway made. For although she wants Xaphista to lose his power, she doesn't want the god of war to step in and take his place. She wants all the pagan gods to be of roughly equal stature. There is an interesting discussion with the goddess of love about why she will always be powerful, because people need love, no matter how happy or miserable they are.
So we move on to Medalon. We first see it through the point of view of Tarja, who has been disillusioned of R'shiel because of the demons that formed his healing blood for a long time on the march south. He still thinks of R'shiel as a sister, so their love affair leaves him feeling rather filthy. Marching back to the river to cut off the Karien's ability to cross it allows Tarja to meet with Adrina's old escort, and they are all caught by the Kariens. The last time we saw the Kariens, they were terrible soldiers, even given the excuse of them being under a spell. I suppose numbers do make a difference, even when they are so inept.
Tarja is taken back to the Citadel, where he is imprisoned awaiting hanging. But R'shiel and Brak get back to the Citadel and make a deal with the leader of the Defenders. They stage an uprising against the Kariens and the Sisters, aiming to form a new government. As payment, R'shiel demands that the Harshini be allowed to return. She will use the power of the gods to destroy Xaphista's power.
Tarja is rescued by the coup members, while R'shiel and Brak return to Sanctuary to evacuate it. The Harshini, no longer hidden after their leader exhausted his magic and dies, are now spreading across the range they used to occupy, in all the lands except Karien. R'shiel assures them they can return to the Citadel, so Shananara takes the remnant of their people there. R'shiel and Brak stay in Sanctuary so she can toss it out of time again, so it cannot be ravaged. That night, they make love, like only Harshini can. Apparently it is such a wonderful experience that sex can be ruined for humans ever again once they experience it with a Harshini.
And this gives R'shiel the clue she needs to destroy Xaphista. When she gets back to the Citadel, she finds that the Harshini have "redecorated", removing all the stains the Sisters tried to use to hide the scenes of the pagan gods. One of Xaphista's priests has gauged his eyeballs out so he doesn't have to see the Harshini and believe in them. Yuck.
R'shiel sets the rest of the priests free, but keeps one of their staffs for herself, careful not to touch the metal that nearly killed her back in Medalon. She has a blacksmith fashion the staff into a cage, and uses the staff crystal to link to every other priest, and all the other communication stones in the lands. Then she asks the Harshini to make love like never before; the waves of euphoria and eroticism go out through the crystals, and everybody from Hythria to Fardohnya and Karien fall under her spell. Rigid Xaphista falls from their minds for the duration, and his power suddenly shrinks. She uses her magic to diminish his followers' beliefs longer, so his power grows even weaker. When he appears to confront her, she catches him in the cage, where touching the metal treats him the same as it did R'shiel. And so his power decreases so much that he becomes an ordinary Demon, and then he dies.
Death also became another character in this novel. Brak had made a pact with Death to save R'shiel's life at the beginning of Treason Keep, and the bargain is fulfilled here. The author also reveals why Medalonians burn their dead, while pagan followers bury theirs: if Death doesn't take the body, he might decide to return the soul to it one day. Interesting.
R'shiel also gets her revenge on Loclon. Loclon killed the first sister Joyhina, in whose body he was residing since the last book. He escaped with the Xaphista followers he was now sworn to, but they did not treat him nicely -in his mind he should be treated like a king, while he can treat others as he wants. They take him to the priest stronghold near or on the island Karien got as a dowry gift when Adrina got married last book. He manages to escape them during the rapture when Xaphista is killed. The timing seems way off, here. It takes weeks to get somewhere, but when the gods help, an army and a fleet can get from Hythria and Fardohnya, respectively, rather quickly. But Loclon seemed to get back to that island in a very short time, indeed!
So when he does escape, he falls over a cliff and nearly dies. In the dark of his blindness after that, he is tended to by a young girl, whom he rapes, but then discovers she is infected with an incurable plague. R'shiel finds him there, and accelerates the growth of the plague in him, so that he will suffer unceasingly. Another yuck, but a character who probably deserves it. Medieval kingdoms are not the best places to live for a fair trial.
Aside from the few things that I thought were either unnecessary or inconsistent, I found the conclusion to this trilogy to be quite entertaining, and fun. I would definitely consider moving on to the prequel trilogy that follows this one.
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