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A novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
(1997, Bantam Spectra)

A sequel to the Darksword Trilogy

Several people try to convince Joram that his new Darksword is required to save humanity from an alien race.


-- First reading (paperback)
September 10th to 17th, 2003


This book left me without much opinion whatsoever, except for another less-than-satisfying ending.

Spoiler review:

There was a neat twist close to the end of the book, which made it more interesting, but for the most part, the book was really dull. None of the questions that I raised at the end of my review for Triumph of the Darksword were even addressed, which is another disappointment. It appears that everybody actually was evacuated from Thimhallan, and that the magic was not dispersed throughout the Universe, as had been described. The Well of Life was merely capped. The people of Thimhallan have been relocated to Earth, but are still in denial, which they have been fostering for twenty years.

Yet even though magic wasn't released to all, the duuk-tsarith managed to collect some so that it can be used on Earth. How, since they say no catalyst has been able to give Life since Thimhallan fell?

I wonder if my antipathy towards this book is simply the result of expectations. I don't know what I expected from this story, but what I read was certainly far from it. The authors tried to give this a mixed science fiction and fantasy feel, and I believe that they failed. The people of Thimhallan have experienced at least some of Earth's technology. Spaceships are used to go to the observation post on Thimhallan. Saryon uses an aircar to travel to see Joram, and lasers are in evidence.

The villains in this book are those who practice the Dark Arts. When magic was "released", the people who fed off of Death (as opposed to Life) gained some magic back, since they had been abandoned by Merlyn centuries ago. They are personified by their leader, Kevon Smythe. There are other villains, the alien Hch'nyv who are intent on wiping out humanity. Everybody believes that the Darksword is the key to destroying these aliens, as even the priests of the Hch'nyv, we are told, know that the sword is a danger.

After being visited by Smythe, Joram forged a new Darksword to protect himself. How he thought it would protect him is unknown, since it was not infused with Life like his old one.

This story takes place in the first person narrative, something that I am growing less and less fond of. This allows the authors to make some concessions that they would have otherwise not been able to make, and I think that is a problem. Everything is seen form one side, though Reuven also gets input from other people. What I really don't like is Reuven taking credit for writing the first three books in the Darksword Trilogy. This means that some of the events were open to interpretation, and that they could rewrite some of it as they pleased, simply by saying that Reuven was wrong, or that his sources were wrong. Still, it allows for a touch of our world to be seen through his eyes.

The best part of the book comes very early on, when Saryon and Reuven are visited by Mosiah, now a duuk-tsarith. He can use magic, and even hides them within a fold in time. I loved their discussions about the psychology of the people from Thimhallan. I really wonder why only the enforcers managed to gather any magic, since the other people were like batteries ready to be recharged. Some of the people should have re-attained their magic.

I must re-stress my dislike for Thimhallan being another planet, as I already said at the end of the review for Triumph of the Darksword. Menju the Sorcerer, and the others who were cast out beyond the Border must have been picked up by Earth Forces. Why did he have to search for 40 years to find it again, even with the Border up? Didn't Earth Forces wonder about the people they would occasionally pick up, who must have been confused by technology?

Saryon is convinced to go see Joram, if only to get the man out of the way of the encroaching aliens, since Thimhallan is now a colony of Earth, and therefore a target. Reuven, who is mute, immediately falls in love with Joram's daughter, who is nearly as old as he is. This is strange, since we were told in the last book that 10 Earth years pass for every Thimhallan year (though it didn't make sense then, and I suspect this book has it right). I have trouble believing this was because of the magical Border, as in the other Timeline, Eliza was the same age, and the Border had been rebuilt.

The Dark magic users (who feed off Death instead of Life, and would love to have the Hch'nyv torture and kill humanity) arrive, and try to take the Darksword by force, though Eliza and Reuven managed to inadvertently steal it beforehand. Joram and Saryon are captured, and Mosiah is defeated in battle, though he manages to escape. They take the Darksword to the city Zith-el in hopes of making a trade, even though giving the Darksword over would end up enslaving and killing them all.

This is where Scylla enters. Though it isn't revealed until the end, she is one of the magic users from centuries ago, when people could still see through time. Her people saw the threat of the aliens, and saw only one chance to save humanity. They disappeared, and tried to influence time to give them that chance. Though it is never mentioned, I have to believe that more than just Scylla survived. She and Mosiah fall almost instantly in love, though this romance is barely given any time at all, and I don't see it.

So Scylla sends Reuven and Mosiah through to a time where Joram died at the hands of the Executioner instead of Simkin, and where the war between magic users and technology went a little differently, though the Well of Life was still plugged, but then unplugged, and people had to live with less magic. The time hopscotching was quite interesting, and definitely one of the best parts of the book.

When they are about to be caught by Smythe and his followers, they are sent to that other timeline, where Saryon leads them to where he hid the Darksword after Joram's death. They recover it from the Dragon who was guarding it, but the duuk-tsarith were following them, and wanted the Darksword for themselves. Since they were the most powerful of magic users on Thimhallan, they deposed King Garald and made the world into a police state, though they didn't have much time as rulers. Their mere presence in the Dragon's cave destroyed the charm, and so the Dragon killed them all, and the Darksword wasn't recovered to save humanity, which was wiped out. Those duuk-tsarith were pretty stupid, since they must have known the danger. Why didn't they simply wait until the group left the cave?

When Saryon describes how he found the cave in the alternate timeline, this was definitely a writer's cheat, since he goes off on tangents which let us know what happened during the intervening time; what would have happened if things went differently. Although it was interesting, and plausible, he gave away much too much information to account for Mosiah's "hit on the head".

The most welcome turn of events in this book was the return of Simkin. He was such a joy to read in the Trilogy, and he was no different here, except that since he was dead, he could only take the form of inanimate objects. He repeats some of the humor from the Trilogy, but also has some new stuff to say. He really livens up an otherwise dull tale.

In the instant when they were all being killed by the Dragon of Night, the group was moved to another timeline, where they managed to rescue Joram, with Simkin's help. They fly the charmed Dragon to the tomb of Merlyn, where their salvation supposedly awaits. The climax of the book was really starting to get exciting by this point, but when Smythe attacked them again at the tomb, it ran out of steam quickly. I liked Simkin's impersonation of the Darksword, enraging Smythe. The spirit of Merlyn then brought Joram back form the dead, took the Darksword (Simkin), and moved all the people from the Grove, and in the orbiting spaceships to a far off place, where the Hch'nyv wouldn't find them for millions of years.

Huh? Although it was an unexpected twist that is much more realistic than the Darksword being able to fend off an army of alien ships with far superior technology, it's not by much. Where did the millions of people in the spaceships come from? Thimhallan was supposed to be attacked before Earth. Yet here were all these Earth people ready to have the Darksword as their saviour. How did they get such an evacuation force there in that time? Who decided who was to be left behind? Actually, I don't really care. By this time, the book was disappointing to me, so one more disappointment didn't detract any more.

I must state, however, that the book was still really well written. The characters were fairly well-developed, even though I never truly became engaged with them. The plotting was very tight, for what it's worth. Every time I raised a question about what was happening, the authors saw fit to answer them only a few pages later.

Moving to a new setting allows the authors to continue the adventures of these people, if they want to. However, I don't think I will tag along for the ride, if they do. The authors dedicated the book to the fans who kept asking what happens next? This book didn't really answer that question. Yet it allows the question to be asked again, in another context... and so now what happens next?

There were things that I liked about this book, though they were annoyingly rare. I happen to like a complex plot like time-hopping. I loved Simkin's return. I was never a big fan of Joram, so the fact that he barely appears in this book doesn't bother me. The ending of this book is no better than the ending of the last one. In fact, I think I prefer the last ending. At least it offered hope that magic could be replenished. This one offers that same hope, but with the way it was treated here, I don't expect much. So ends the Darksword adventures, as far as I'm concerned.


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