Friday, September 04, 2009

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, The Phoenix Endangered

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, The Phoenix Endangered: Book Two
of The Enduring Flame.
New York: Tor, 2008. trade paperback.
468 pps including preview of The Phoenix Transformed.

Book Two of The Enduring Flame does not disappoint. The two teen heros--
Harrier and Tiercel-- continue their long trek past the veiled lands and into
the desert in order to find a mysterious Lake of Fire and the evil contained
therein. The story opens with Harrier being dunked into some water by
a golden unicorn named Kareta and then having a red satchel with three books
foisted upon him. Kareta is not the usual sort of unicorn. She is somewhat
annoying and impetuous. The Three Books of the Wild Magic mark Harrier's
passage into the ranks of Knight-Mages, something that the son of a harbour
master would not have chosen for himself. For one, Harrier hates spells. He
doesn't want to do them. He has no interest in studying the books which contain
them. For another, he cannot imagine himself killing another human being,
never mind fighting in a war. Kareta hitches herself to the caravan so she can
nag Harrier until he yields.

Tiercel, son of a noble family, discovered some time ago that he was able to
"do" high magic. He continues his growth in this book cumulating in a quite
formidable purple (I quite approve of the color purple) shield used to hold back
some crazed desert folk from destroying a city. The cities in the desert are built
around the presence of water, water wells to be precise. There is a glorious black
dragon also, Ancaladar, who picks off shoters (something like camels I imagine
although we are never told directly) and other desert game for his meals. The
dragon comes equipped with a saddle so his newly Bonded, Tiercel, can go along
for the ride as the caravan containing Harrier, Kareta-- and later on a wounded
swordsmaster-- makes its way along roads and sand.

The people of the desert are drawn with excellence. Of particular cunning is the
foe, a BlueRobe gone bad ["bluerobe" being the name for wild mages] named
Bisochim who for the love of a lady is able to rally the desert tribes into one
maddened hoard. He tells them that those who do not follow him and the way
of The True Balance are actually disciples of The False Balance. His argument
of needing both the dark and the light are convincing to me (but unfortunately,
it is the "wrong" argument in the book).

Having rallied the people to his cause, Bisochim leads the various tribes to a
city where everything is provided to them in the middle of the desert. The
people are not used to idleness and so Bisochim appoints the young and the
restless warriors to go out in bands of twos and threes to find the Nalzindar
and their woman leader Shaiara who did not follow along with his propaganda.
Instead, they went off into hiding and managed to find another city underground.
Shaiara is able to keep the peace within her own tribe and their frugal ways
enable them to live quite well in the artificial orchards miraculously provided
for the Nalzindar.

Unfortunately for Bisochim, the young warriors have taken his words to heart and--
under the leadership of Zanatter-- mass destruction of the desert cities occur. There
is killing and plundering enough for those who like that sort of thing. There are also
fine examples of military strategy as can be found in any fantasy world. Bisochim
must now work even harder and faster to undo what Zanatter et. al. had unwittingly
done to make his goals even more difficult to achieve.

The Phoenix Endangered was an especially pleasing read for me. I enjoyed immensely
the introduction of new characters to the series. I also enjoyed being let in on the
thoughts of Tiercel and Harrier. The only weakness perhaps was when the two were
"held prisoners in a suite of luxurious rooms" at the bequest of the city heads. This is
something which is repeated often in the fantasy genre. It is overdone in my estimation
and not very convincing in this book. Perhaps there could have been developed another
way to get the two where they needed to be for the rest of the story to continue. At any
rate, this book comes recommended to those who like fantasy and especially to the
adolescent crowd.

sapphoq reviews

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