by Michelle West (nee Sagara) is another of those fantasy books that I can't help gushing about! What boggles my mind is that this author has SEVERAL impressive series going: the 'Chronicles in Elantra' series which all begin with the words...Cast In (my review of Cast in Peril is at this link); the 'Queen of the Dead' series that started with Silence (post about it is here and review is here) and they ALL are fantastic reads. My mind boggles even more that this amazing author also works (at a bookstore, yum) and has a family to care for (including a special needs child).
This title is the sequel to Skirmish (review link).
Any reader of epic fantasy has to be willing to devote a considerable amount of time to reading an individual volume in a series. Then there are usually multiple volumes which comprise the series and the populations seem to explode exponentially until there are a bewilderingly large number of connections and characters to keep track of. The key is to get the reader so invested that he or she doesn’t worry about how much time is passing and to make the characters so engaging that one is willing to either just go with the flow or start diagramming who is related to whom and why it is important. Personally, I hate books with large casts of characters because I get overwhelmed by trying to remember who goes where but this author consistently makes me ignore all of that and get lost in the story.
I really hated to start this series because I haven’t read the first arc that is tied to this one nor had I read the first 3 books in this particular series. I am obsessive enough that I usually try to go back and read the first books in a series if I have time before the review for the one assigned is due. I knew there was no way I could do this for these because this author is so thorough at making a richly textured tale that they are very weighty tomes and the imagery is so impressive that one can’t rush through them. This particular story is no exception and I delighted in the twists that makes one unsure whether certain characters are going to be a help or a hindrance, the vivid imagery, and the exciting occurrences. The fabulous and fussy felid trio, Shadow, Night and Snow are as distinctive and mysterious a set of companions as ever as are the mage Meralonne APhaniel, the enigmatic Avandar and the more than a simple tailor Havel.
I included a couple of quotes in my review below but there were so many I really liked, here are a couple of more:
"...kept his complaints largely on the correct side of his mouth."
"But blind or no, you stand in death’s shadow; every minute is borrowed....And you love fiercely because you can. You create with the whole of your will when will is bent to create. You sing, and we hear in your song what we see in the flowers that gird your gardens: life. It is a life that is celebrated because it is brief. It must be watched, because it is otherwise over so swiftly it cannot be experienced by those it cannot otherwise touch." (p. 430)
My review (submitted to Night Owl)
Battle by Michelle West (nee Sagara) is book 5 of the impressive epic
fantasy series, ‘The House War’ which centers around Jewel Markess
ATerafin. She has ascended to the position left empty when her mentor
Amarais was assassinated but her position is still precarious. Not only
are there ongoing assassination attempts but her household is still
adjusting to the major changes in their lives and responsibilities. The
Kings and many others are very uncomfortable with the power that Jewel
is manifesting but her concern about the coming battle against the god
and the threat posed by the Sleepers is exacerbated by her desire to
keep those she considers part of her Den safe. Unfortunately, there is
no way to continue on her chosen pathway without risk to everyone around
her, particularly since some of her allies are just as dangerous to her
as her enemies.
In keeping with the other tales in this wonderful fantasy series, there is a wealth of action and characters which form the intricate tale surrounding one exceptional female, Jewel. As her powers strengthen and morph, so do her surroundings and the challenges which she faces. I love the imagery in this universe and the author’s dexterity with using phrases that say volumes without adding to the already considerable number of pages in the tale. Two among my many favorites are, “Andrei tactfully said nothing further, but he had a way of saying nothing that was actually quite loud.” and “...in a tone so chilly it would freeze whole lakes if he dropped a word in their water.” but there are countless passages just as striking to be savored.
This is another impressive addition to an almost overwhelming series that immerses the reader in another time and place, and almost functions as a ‘spa day”...or should I say, ‘spa week’ to a fantasy lover. The occasional comic relief provided by the quarrelsome winged felines (I ask you, if one had wings, who would try to occupy the same airspace as another just to be difficult?) helps lighten some of the intensity of the read but one still has the feeling of being a powerless yet willing passenger on a juggernaut that is hurtling toward an inescapable fate. It is not recommended that this be read as a stand-alone since there are so many backstories that have bearing on the characters that populate this story but I can’t imagine that you would be sorry to get entranced by starting with the beginning of the series (except for the pesky issue of needing to meet other responsibilities). Another sensational story from an author who is a genius at world-building.