MYSTIC EMPIREA novel by Tracy and Laura Hickman
The Bronze Canticles, book 3
A human prince tries to escape the Royal life, as the faeries are about to be overrun and the goblins plan an invasion of the other worlds.
-- First reading (paperback)
The sudden jump in time and a set of brand-new characters took a while to get used to, there were strange inconsistencies or unexplained details at key points, and I wasn’t sure what the book was about until almost halfway through. The ending was sufficient to almost make up for this, as the convergence of the three worlds caused a major shift in all three.Spoiler review:
As with the second book, this one takes place decades after the previous setting. This made it difficult to get reacquainted with the world, as only one character remained from the first two installments in this series. Not only that, but the world has also changed. The mystics have grown into an Empire (as per the title), with several cities. But they are repeating the mistakes of their former oppressors, the Pir. The Mystics are given the highest power and social standing, and the common folk have no say at all in what happens.
I liked the way most of the book took place in a land far from Calasandria, where the Mystics are still in conflict with the Pir. The lands to the south (Caribbean-type islands?) have known the Deep Magic without losing it, as those in the North did. They have a connection that is much deeper, and are much stronger than the Mystics we have known to date. After learning that he is to engaged to Valana Conlan, a member with status due to her bloodline, Prince Treijan fakes his own kidnapping. He and Gaius travel to the lands down south, where they are probably having a great time until Theona and Valana decide to go search for him.
This book is more intimately tied with the other worlds than we’ve previously seen. In the faery realm, Arryk lets a centaur into Dwynwyn’s realm, because he shows the power of the sharaj (Deep Magic in that realm). But that could be the spark of war with the Kyree, so he has to take the creature back, but disappears as he is doing so, putting the Kyree on the warpath. The other faeries won’t help out, because they also resent those with the power of the sharaj. Why does Arryk disappear? Because the goblin Lunid fell in love with him in the dream world, and designed a cage to move him between the worlds, and captures him from his world. He and the centaur break free, though, and end up somehow traveling to save Treijan, Gaius and Theona from being murdered by the Pir monk, bringing them all back to the faery world. The way the cage/bubble moved south to Treijan seemed rather suspicious, and is never explained. I suspect it was being drawn to the songstones he had.
The disappearance of Arryk devastates Lunid, but furthers the ambition of the goblin king –he wants to invade the world of the gods. And he does. While Treijan and Theona are in the world of the faery, the goblins invade. I find it to be a cheat that the goblins never attacked Calasandria. While I really liked the people of the southern island, I think they were brought into existence simply so that the sacred city wouldn’t be touched by the war.
Treijan decides that Theona must become his wife, as she is of the same bloodline as her sister, and is infinitely more practical (treated as a commoner, she never had any use for status and rank). She is also having visions, talking directly to the gods, who show her the path that must be taken in order to save the world. Full of sacrifices (though honestly there is only one sacrifice, other than the barely-mentioned people of the south), it is a road that will be hard for people to take. I figured almost immediately that this path would give Theona the best of both worlds. She and Gaius have fallen in love, but she has to marry Treijan. I guessed correctly that her new husband would die, and that she could continue her life with Gaius.
The rest of the book deals with the goblin army and how to stop it. Meanwhile, Dwynwyn’s people are about to be overrun by the Kyree, so are eager to move to the human world through this new gate. The functioning of the gates are not really well described. The gate in the human cave was connected to another human city, but it enlarged itself to accommodate the faery gate. I thought the gates were twinned, which implies two, and that it wasn’t possible to change the destination of a gate (which is how Treijan got stranded on that island in the first place, transporting it like Stargates).
The only battle we actually see comes when Theona hatches a plan to rescue her new husband and the others with Deep Magic from the goblin anti-magic cages Lunid had created, in order to close the gate. It is never explained how Theona could use the dream world without having any other symptom –even the goblin cages have no effect on her. Yet she still uses it. Also, why didn’t the goblin capture King Pe’akanu or his people? Instead, most are dead, and the king is fighting from the hills. Why are only the main characters worth capturing and keeping in a cage?
Regardless, Theona and the duplicitous dwarf disable the goblin guards (good thing there were only two) and free her friends. Treijan reactivates the gate to the faery world, and Dwynwyn’s people understand the sacrifice they will need to make to come to the human world –fight the goblins. May die on all sides, including Treijan, but in the end it is Meklos and Lunid who save them and their world. Being a Pir dragon-speaker, Meklos is stripped of his magic by Pe’akanu’s people, and is told that once he realizes the true path, he’ll be free. So when Theona blasts him verbally for doing nothing to stop the massacre, we know it is only a matter of time before he decides to change his ways. He calls the gigantic dragon of the islands, and rides the beast into the battle, destroying several Titans before make a last fatal (for the dragon) leap to destroy the rest of them. In the meantime, Lunid sees Arryk through the gate, and runs in to prevent him from being murdered by her leader, who shoots her instead. Apparently it was Lunid herself who was the songstone of this gate (I thought it was the books), because when she died, the gate closed.
In the world of the goblins, chaos now reigns, as apparently only their charismatic leader and his Titans could keep them focused. In the faery world, the Kyree attack and plunder the Sharajin world, not knowing where they fled. They take the dwarf captive, as he snuck through the gate during the battle before it was deactivated. What will the Kyree learn from him? That there exists a way to travel to the other worlds? Will the worlds ever be truly safe?
There were a lot of inconsistencies and strange things happen to make this story come to its conclusion, and for much of the book I didn’t know what the actual purpose was. But the characters were decent enough and their individual stories kept me interested in at least them. The big battle was fun, though now that I know Meklos is to be redeemed, I wish he had been featured a lot more, maybe even make him the main character. The people of Calasandria will also need to change, and they seem to be up for the challenge.
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