Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Tracy and Laura Hickman
(2004, Aspect)

The Bronze Canticles, book 1

People living on the same world, but on different planes of existence, share magic from the other worlds, which help them in their survival in their own. A human escapes a battle for his dragonlord, a faery holds back an invasion of her lands, and a goblin rises to power.


+ -- First reading (paperback)
June 2nd to 20th, 2014


This different approach to magic didn't really work for me. While the authors showed their usual attention to detail in settings and mythology, the world/worlds didn't really interest me that much. The story focused mostly on the human aspect, in which the main character could get magical items from the other worlds through his dreams, but it wasn't all that engaging. The Faery world seemed more mystical to me, while the goblin one was bizarre.

Spoiler review:

This is a world in turmoil, though they have enjoyed something like a long peace since the dragons took over, four hundred years ago. As long as they keep sending their sacrifices, people who are mentally crazy anyway, the humans are left to live their lives as they see fit. Unfortunately, Galen is having nightmares, which deep down he knows means he is actually part of the Elect. But he manages to avoid the culling every year. This year, however, after his marriage to Berkita, he gets caught, and is brought to the Election, where the monks disable him with their dragonstaffs.

So begins Galen's long journey to the lands of Vasska, the dragonking in his region. It is not a very interesting journey, though it is full of beautiful descriptions of the lands they passed, the water they crossed, and the history of the Pir religion.

Galen, however, has been in contact with the other two worlds that share this same space, but apparently on a different plane of existence. The lands look the same, but the peoples that populate them are completely different, though they have the same tendencies.

So while Galen is transported to the citadel of Vasska, Dwynwyn the faery is searching for a solution to her problems, an invasion by one of the other faery lords into the realm of her monarch. She sees Galen in her dreams, but does not understand what kind of creature he is, nor what he is doing. But in investigating, she helps him, first to escape on the road to the Pir, and then to protect him from the dragonstaffs once he is recaptured. His dreams provide him with swords for him and his new followers, one of which talks to him and gives him advice, and is probably the funniest character in the book.

Galen, in turn, gives Dwynwyn a gift of thirty-six stones, pearls in her realm, which she uses for protection of the princess of her realm, Aislynn. On the run, they are captured by an unknown race called the Kyree, and while her guard is tortured by having their wings ripped off, she surrounds herself in an impenetrable sphere, provided by Galen through her dreams. Unfortunately, air couldn't get inside the sphere, either, and she passed out. But Aislynn threw the pearls into the sea, and dead faery warriors rose up to protect her, changing the balance of power in the faery realm.

Most of the story focuses on Galen, who learns sword wielding, and gets coaching about the dream-world from Maddoc and Rhea -Maddoc being outwardly crazy, but seeming to understand the dream world a little better than Galen. Rhea, his wife, is not crazy, but is determined to end the rule of the Pir using this magic her husband and daughter (left behind at the Election) have been given. Galen surrounds him self with thirty-six loyal warriors (including himself).

The third world is somewhat unconnected, at least for the moment. Mimic is an engineer goblin, under the oppressive rule of his boss. But his dreams tell him where and how he can activate long-dead machines in long-toppled gigantic titans. Four hundred years earlier, the titans walked the lands, but now they are dead hulks littering the landscape. All goblins love any gears and cogs, or any other piece of the ancient titans that they can find (they remind me of he gnomes in the Dragonlance novels). Their world is one much in chaos, as their wills can change on a whim, and so can their leadership (kind of like kender in the aforementioned Dragonlance novels). They are written as comic relief in some sense, but in another, they are a key to the puzzle. Mimic discovers a piece of machinery (a clock), that starts to tick when he looks as the symbols in a book, which would have otherwise been burned to keep his boss warm. He allows his boss to gain in popularity, knowing that only Mimic could operate the clock. Then, at the last moment, as Lirry is presenting the clock to the Dong (Emperor), he takes all the credit, gaining revenge at the same time.

Mimic is driven to create a set of thirty-six mechanical mini-titans which he races over to the Dong's palace. At the same time, Aislynn throws her thirty-six pearls into the sea... And at the same time, Galen is taken to the Election fields, where he and Vasska's army of crazy warriors are supposed to fight against the armies of the other dragonlords. Galen uses his magic to protect his thirty-six warriors, breaking the truce of the dragons and sending them into real war. The kyree join Dwynwyn against the faery lord marching on her empress's kingdom. And the toy titans kill the Dong, allowing Mimic to ascend to the highest rank in the land (but of course there are other emperors out there...).

One of the Pir Inquasistas, Tragget, could also enter the dream world, an ability of which he was most ashamed, until the dragon-speaker, his mother, revealed that she wanted to use his ability to overcome the rule of the dragons and set humanity free. But it didn't work that way, as she is killed, and Tragget is left on the battlefield. I don't know if he survived.

Galen's friends are both killed, a vision he had that he could not change (which surprised me), and he leads some of Vasska's army to safety away from the battle.

I found the narrative to be a little distant from the reader; maybe intertwining three worlds was a little too much for this format. While the faery and goblin realms were interesting, the story focused almost exclusively on the human one, and in that was a lot of waiting, or a lot of Galen whining about how he didn't want to lead an army, and so on. The dream world was vague to the characters, and even more so to the reader. While the magic is described as metaphor in the dream world, which becomes reality in the real world, it is unclear how the characters will begin to command it.

The authors manage to give a lot of history and geography in the narrative without it being too intrusive, but I think it was given maybe at the expense of the story? It was interesting, but didn't tell us much, because the characters didn't know that much about it. I only hope that Galen can figure some of it out for the next book.


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