It’s surprisingly tricky to review the later books in the series without giving too much away, in large part because the whole thing should really be regarded as a single long novel. Nevertheless, here’s the review of part four. I finished part five last night; *late* last night, because I could not put it down. Part five review will probably follow later today.
As the fourth volume opens, the little group of travellers finally reaches the safety of the desert city of Rhabat, and the council of the sheiks. But safety only for a little while, before the ‘ifrits make their presence felt. Again, Brenchley draws on the real world to form a solid foundation for his creation, with his depiction of the city carved from living rock.
The are two main plot threads running through this volume; one the growing love and friendship between various characters, the other the shifting balance between war and peace as Hasan tries to unite the Sharai tribes for war against the Outremer states, and the King’s Shadow and Ruban of Surayon try to dissuade them from war. But the future war is forgotten for a little while, as both sides make common cause to defend Rhabat from an enemy deadly to all.
Both plot threads come together around Julianne. The King’s Shadow is quite willing to use his own daughter in persuit of his cause, recognising the strong mutual attraction between Julianne and Hasan. Julianne finds herself with a second wedding arranged for political purposes — and a second prospective husband she is in love with, political marriage or no. But that’s far less complicated than the emotions swirling around Marron…
As with the previous volumes, much of the appeal of the series lies in the complex characters. They mostly try to do the right thing, at least by their own moral codes, but don’t always succeed. They’re human and have human failings, and one of the things the series shows is that moral codes can be different and not perfectly compatible, — and not always perfectly followed even by people who try to do so. It’s easy to become attached to these people, wanting to know what happens next and hoping for a good outcome for them all. But there are no guarantees here; characters die, and not just redshirts introduced as cannon fodder. It makes for a reading experience that is sometimes painful, but certainly intense.
Feast of the King’s Shadow (Outremer) 2/3 at Amazon UK
Outremer #4: Feast Of The King’s Shadow (Outremer, 4) 4/6 at Amazon US
Chaz Brenchley’s website