SHADOW STARA novel by George Lucas and Chris Claremont
Chronicles of the Shadow War, book 3
Elora and Thorn fight for their people using physical weapons, magic and cunning to try and defeat the Deceiver.
-- 2nd reading (hardcover)
Long, drawn-out with little purpose, the story did not justify reading through it to get to the conclusion.Spoiler review:
time I read this book, I was in awe of the song that Elora sang on the
eve of battle, and that was what drove the five-star rating, elevating
the novel far above what it would otherwise be. This time, I reached
that same point and was underwhelmed, so much that I thought there must
be another song closer to the end of the book, because I couldn’t
believe I had been so enthralled. It was good, but nowhere near
awe-inspiring. I guess it really depends on the mood in which I read
-- First reading (hardcover)
I was on the fence for a long time about the rating for this book. Two thirds of the way through it, my spirit was so light, the book was so beautiful, that I wondered what I had missed in the first two books. Near the end, the descriptions of magic fell short for me, though they were still powerful. And there are many questions that I would have liked to be answered. After much thought, I decided that the beginning of the book was beautiful enough to warrant the five star rating, despite the weakness near the end. The conclusion was great, even though I had to read it three times to catch all of it. The last chapter, sort of an epilogue, seemed unnecessary.
The book begins the moment after Shadow Dawn ended. Thorn, Elora and Khory are alone in the realm of the dragons after Elora was forced to slay all the dragons to keep them from the power of the Deceiver. But the Deceiver revealed to Elora its true identity, Elora from the future. Eventually, all three of them, and more, gain this knowledge, and I can't even begin to figure out how. As in Shadow Moon, there were times that I thought I had missed an entire chapter, because it was left completely untouched how people made some of the realizations that they did.
Elora, Thorn and the warrior Khory wrap the two remaining dragon's eggs in a spell to keep them safe, then they leave. They are chased through the realm of the Malevoiy, whom we met in the last book, and they try and tempt Elora to become one of them, thus delivering the world into their hands, once again.
For a long age ago, they ruled the world, all twelve realms. But the world goes through changes, and Elora discovered that the world passes through what she termed Celestial Magus Points, where the world could be influenced by the actions of one person. Last time, Khory was alive, and she was the ultimate weapon against the Malevoiy. She was on the cusp of defeating them, when her commander betrayed her, creating peace. But the world remembered the betrayal, and that is what shaped the world that Elora lives in. As a result, the Malevoiy were somehow banished to their own realm forever, where they are shadows.
In that realm, Elora is mortally wounded, by an arrow through the lung. Khory fights her way through to the door between realms, and successfully brings Elora back to the Sandeni Fort called Tregare. This is the very best part of the book. Elora heals herself, though she has to go into a coma and face the Malevoiy again to do so. When she awakens, she and Thorn discover that the nation of Chengwei is launching an attack on Sandeni and Tregare, and she bolsters the defences to defend the fort.
Her dream was very real, and the description of it was awe-inspiring. The spirit-walk when she was in the bath took a little bit of getting used to, and the Caliban was a concept that I didn't think needed to be introduced. By the end, though, I realized the need, but I still can't understand the transformation. The Caliban turns out to be the King who betrayed Khory to the Malevoiy, and they get to do battle to the death at the book's climax.
But the absolute best part of the book was Elora's song to rally the troops. The Chengwei attacked in four waves. The first wave was in disguise, but Elora discovered that they were only pretending to be the Tregare scouting party. It took a while for the fort to awaken, but they managed to kill all of that wave. The second wave was a slaughter, as rank upon rank of Chengwei fell to fire from the fort, used to determine what kind of defences the fort had.
The third wave was an all out battle, but was saved by Thorn and Khory, as they found a couple of ogres, and led them to decimate the Chengwei camp. And the fourth wave was an all out siege, using a weapon that disrupts magic.
Between the second and the third waves, Elora did what she discovered that she does best in the last book. She danced, and sang. And for four lovely and wonderful pages, the author describes a song that touched the whole army, the whole fort, and brought their spirits up, and readied them for the battle ahead. There are no lyrics presented, only emotions, and feelings. The song inspired, and I was incredibly moved.
Her dance to open the gate between her realm and Lesser Faery was no less intricate. She led all the people who weren't fighting through to that land, and to Sandeni, across utopian fields tended by faeries and other magic creatures. And for the first time in memory, an elf danced with a man.
In Sandeni, Elora hides out at the house of a scribe, where she learns more about the magus points, and tries to learn the weaknesses of the Caliban and the Deceiver. Meanwhile, Tregare falls to the Chengwei. The Caliban attacks, and tries to kidnap Elora, succeeding only in kidnapping another royal figure.
Elora escapes the city once more, and returns to the fort, in search of Thorn and her love, Luc-Jon. She frees the fort single-handedly, persuading fire-drakes to reduce its walls to cinders, and demoralizing the enemy forces. They were so scared that the attack on Sandeni was halted.
Elora then took Luc-Jon, Khory and the brownies through the bowels of the Earth to the Chengwei city where Thorn was being held. This is where the tone of the book changed, and I don't think it was truly successful in telling the story. Large chunks seemed to be missing, and other things seemed way too easy.
Thorn is actually helping the Chengwei sorcerers build a larger magic-disrupting device, similar to the one that defeated Tregare. Elora enters the magical palace to free him, but is trapped inside. She doesn't seem to mind, though, and they go to a banquet designed to show off the newly finished device.
The Deceiver arrives, however, and the device is activated, turning the palace into a chaotic mess, which is how I would also describe this chapter. The sorcerers attempt to control the device while also fighting the Deceiver. The Caliban enters the fray. Thorn and Khory try to keep each other alive.
But one spell goes awry, as the Deceiver sends poison gas towards some sorcerers, Elora gets in the way, and she dies. But between life and death, the Malevoiy await. And she seizes the chance for life by fusing them with herself. And in a very wicked sequence which transforms that chapter from a mess into a jewel, Elora turns into a Malevoiy.
Unfortunately, Elora is much less interesting as a Malevoiy. She and the Deceiver fight almost endlessly, but everybody has to escape the magical cascade that is about to consume not only the sorcerer's palace, but the entire Chengwei city!
The escape is chaotic, but the chapter is thankfully well told. I can't figure out how Thorn's friend ends up piloting the ship they leave on, but I guess I can forgive it. The escape from the city is stressful, especially since Thorn can't forgive himself for leaving Elora behind, especially as Malevoiy. But he puts it past him for a while, as he designs a new machine, and sends out instructions, by way of magic, to his kin and the elves. The Chengwei city falls, as the realm of Earth swallows it. The rest of the Chengwei empire is virtually ruined, at least for the foreseeable future.
The last chapter was brilliant. All is revealed here, though there were annoying questions left behind. Elora and the Deceiver make their way back to the frozen city of Angwyn, where this all started in Shadow Moon. Elora passes the (still frozen) delegation that was supposed to watch her ascension to Queen of the twelve realms, and it makes her pause, even though she is almost completely Malevoiy. She passes the king of Greater Faery, and the queen of Lesser Faery, the leader of the Dragons (in his frozen form), whom she slew in their realm. And she notices the missing delegation; the Malevoiy were not invited. The Deceiver awaits, and they begin to fight once again.
Thorn and his company make their way to the fortress of Nockmaar, where the entire story took place, where Elora was born in the movie Willow, and where she nearly died as an infant. Thorn meets his kin, and puts together the machine, then activates it. A portal is opened between Nockmaar and Angwyn, the two strongest points of magic in the world. And they watch as Khory enters the room and kills Elora the Malevoiy. Elora dies again, and the portal brings her body, along with Khory and the Deceiver, to Nockmaar.
The device also opened a door for the Malevoiy to reenter the world. As they attack, Elora comes back to life as herself, shedding the shell that had become her outer body for a time.
As the Malevoiy regroup, the Caliban enters the room. The machine strips him of all his magical disguises, though, and reveals his true identity. Khory and him fight. Of course, Khory wins, but only because she is part demon.
Elora joins with the Deceiver, who has given in to despair, and learns what drove her to do what she has been doing. She lived a perfect life, Ascended to Queen, and tried to rule the realms. But she saw deceit at every turn, and eventually exterminated all the realms, including the Malevoiy and the dragons. Elora shows her the way to hope, and they release the dragon egg, giving birth to a new generation of dreams.
Elora realizes that she was not meant to rule the Twelve realms, but to give them hope, to persuade them to work together. For her gift is not magic as others understand it. She persuades the magical elements to work, instead of trying to command them. And the same works with the world. The dragon fire reduces Nockmaar to a shiny plate of molten rock, eliminating the Malevoiy threat, leaving flowers in the middle that seem to resemble the heroes.
It was revealed that Bavmorda (the villain in Willow) started a spell of banishment that would have disintegrated Elora's soul. But the spell was never finished, and so it created two versions of the future, and especially, two Eloras. It was also revealed in a terrific sequence by the machine, that Elora's father was the Dragon leader, whom she saw at her Ascension, and whom she killed in the realm of the Dragons, to protect him.
The Coda seemed to me unnecessary. Elora, Thorn, Khory and the brownies lived, somehow, and it is never explained how, or what they did in the six months since the destruction of Nockmaar. The world seems a better place, and Elora is going trouping out as a singer and dancer, to give hope and dreams to the people who need them. My biggest question lies in what was not told, though. After the big deal made about the Malevoiy being part of the world, are they now part of it?
Elora had to experience all twelve realms, and fit them into her peace. The realms of the World were always willing to help her. She experienced Earth, Air, Water, and the one that was closest to her, Fire. In the circle of the Flesh, she was born and grew up in the realm of the Daikini (man), and she visited the realms of Lesser Faery and Malevoiy. She even became Malevoiy. As far as I can remember, she never visited the realm of Greater Faery, though she saw it from afar. And in the circle of the Spirit, she experienced Life, Death, and Hope or Dreams (or the realm of the Dragons). Through joining with the Deceiver, she experienced the realm of Despair.
Eleven of those are for certain in the world. I don't know if the Malevoiy are back or not. If anything, I would have hoped for a more balanced Coda. It was good that it told us that hope was returning to the world, about the Chengwei empire, and Khory's disappearing trick, and that there is still war in the world. But it could have told us so much more, spent more time in the aftermath. Ah, well. The ending was still good enough for the most part.
But the beginning is where this book gets all of its stars. I was mesmerized by it all. The dragon realm, the Malevoiy, Elora's experience in the ages past, and the ways she used her magic to heal both Khory and herself were great. The description of the magical centers near the end were not as well done, and felt clumsy. I wonder if that's why the book was so late coming out -tweaking. But the last chapter was great. The coda was a decent aftermath, but could have been more. It also leaves me with the impression that there could be a follow-up story. I wonder.
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