TREASON KEEPA novel by Jennifer Fallon
(2001, TOR Books)
The Hythrun Chronicles: Demon Child Trilogy, book 2
A princess is wed to a neighboring nation, but finds she can't sit still while a war is waged against nearby Medalon, and R'Shiel is further tested in her role of god destroyer.
-- First reading (paperback)
This is a character novel, and as such, is very well written. Even the plot, though thin, was interesting, and I enjoyed seeing how it went from one disaster to the other. On the other hand, while I thoroughly enjoy seeing plans go awry and turn out far different than expected, it would be nice to see some of them go right.Spoiler review:
I liked the characters very much in this novel, especially Princess Adrina, who is introduced in this novel. She is from Fardohnya, which still believes in the old gods, and is ruled by a king who prays to the goddess of lust. He has so many children, but is still trying to get a legitimate son to be his heir. All of his children have been tutored in the arts of seduction and masterful sex, so it is not really expected that Adrina could behave herself after being married to a Karien Prince. The Kariens, of course, believe in Xaphista, who was a demon before becoming a god, and who gains his power through having worshipers. They are extremely prudish, and their religion is very strict, on everything.
Adrina learns quite early on that she must learn to behave, or risk being stoned to death. She pretends to adopt Xaphista, and appears as the perfect Karien wife. In exchange, she demands a place in the battle councils. When Prince Cratyn (which she gleefully mispronounces "cretin") comes to her bed once a month, she sees to it that he can't perform. His only goal in having a Fardohnian bride was to produce an heir to that king, so that he would own half the world, and conquer the other half.
When Cratyn goes to the border of Medalon with his army, Adrina goes with him. She misses part of the battle, as the Karien priests cast a spell over a large part of the army over night, and send the troops through the pass to be slaughtered by the waiting Medalonian Defenders. Those who went to their death included her retinue of body guards, and their captain, her half-brother. So infuriated, she leaves in the night and goes over the border disguised as a courtesan looting the dead bodies on the battlefield.
I kept waiting for Adrina to keep her promise to Cratyn that he would pay for hitting her, for demeaning her, and for all the other things he did to her, including sending her brother to his death. She promised that a lot, but there was no payoff. When he was finally killed, R'shiel did it, and it was so quick he didn't have time to "pay".
The Kariens didn't want to face the Defenders in battle, however, because they had a plan, somehow secretly invading Medalon all the way into the Citadel. What they originally planned, I don't know, but their plan actually went better than they expected.
A lot of time among the Defenders is spent with Tarja and Jenga and Damon Wolfblade of Hythria, who are defending the border with Karien at Treason Keep, which Tarja "discovered" in the last book. There is a lot of really good character interaction between them, and a lot of soul searching, especially in the way they are using First Sister Joyhina's authority, while she has the mind of an infant, and is locked away. Tarja is also concerned for R'shiel, who spends part of the book among the Harshini as she heals from the fatal wound she received at the end of Medalon. The Defenders are sickened at the way the Kariens have thrown away all those lives, not understanding that the Kariens are already behind their defensive lines.
When Adrina arrives, they easily see through her disguise, and wonder what to do with her. She has a little teen worshiper, who believes she is a true saint, and convinces himself that she must lie to the atheist Medalonians and pretend to adopt their ways or else she would be killed. That is, of course, until he discovers that she has been sleeping with Damon Wolfblade. Adrina and Damon fall in love in the typical storybook way. They first hate each other for perceived wrongs in the past, then get to know each other reluctantly, then get drunk and nearly make love, except they are interrupted. It is only later, when Damon calls her to his tent for information that they seal their passion, in a way that Cratyn never could!
R'shiel is allowed some time to heal among the Harshini, and begins to love it among them, until she discovers they've used their magic to reduce her violent tendencies. Then she discovers how the gods, especially the god of war, will temper her with pain every chance he gets. There are lots of chances here, as R'shiel's plan once she leaves the Harshini take a turn for the worse. She gets some demons to impersonate Joyhinia, because the quorum would never believe in the simplistic child she has become. Once they get to the Citadel, she and Brak don't count on the Karien priests being there. While R'shiel is trying to coerce the Sisters to accept Joyhina's retirement and Mahina's reinstatement, the priests take Joyhinia's body and place Loclon's mind within it!
It's the next part of the book that I have real trouble with. If the quorum had trouble believing the First Sister had pardoned Tarja and sanctioned war against the invading Kariens, they seemed impotent to do anything about it. What good is the rest of the quorum, then? Afterwards, it's worse, as she (Loclon, actually) single-handedly surrenders to the Kariens, and places the Defenders under control of the priests. What does the quorum have to say about this, about giving up Medalon's sovereignty? What does Loclon think about it, even if does get to play at being First Sister? Actually, he is too busy enjoying the power to think about it, yet.
R'shiel is tortured, Loclon in Joyhinia's body taunts her and cuts her hair off, and then she is transported across Medalon towards Karien. Of course, before she gets there, she runs into Tarja's and Damon's forces, who refused to surrender and snuck away from the border when they could. When R'shiel kills Cratyn, in an emotionally impressive moment, even if Adrina didn't get her payback, the Defenders take over again.
I find it interesting that most of the people from Medalon have no trouble believing in the gods they've denied for so long, or ignoring them completely, in such a phase of denial, even when magic is performed right in front of them.
The world is left more tattered than before. R'shiel urges Damon and Adrina to get married, not only because they love each other (though they deny it), but for the stability of the world. I wonder how many of the gods R'shiel is planning to kill when she gets the chance. Instead of getting to wreak her vengeance on Loclon, she is forced to go to Hythria to sanction the marriage so that the people of both nations would accept it. I don't see Loclon's removal as a luxury, however, but a necessity. He is guiding Medalon along a path that will make it more difficult to keep the Kariens at bay. But I suppose if she kills their god, they will surrender, anyway. Then it will just be Loclon.
Will things be all tidied up at the end of the next book? I doubt it, and look forward to seeing how R'shiel goes about her tasks.
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