Well, hello Tella. My most enduring character, who dies in chapter 1 of book 1 and then pops up repeatedly throughout the series. She has a relatively small part in this book, but henchman Kestimar has a more significant role.
Another book I tore through in a couple of days, and with one of my favourite heroes, Mal, the flirtatious Bennamorian mage guard who lightens up my tightly-wound heroine, Fen. I’m a sucker for warrior types (see also Garrett of The Dragon’s Egg, and Arran of The Fire Mages’ Daughter).
I’d forgotten that this book follows on more or less directly from The Fire Mages. In that book, the over-powered mage Drei used his magic to subdue Bennamore’s peaceful allies, the coastal Port Holdings, before getting himself killed. Now the Bennamorians don’t quite know what to do with their new dominion, but they’re following through on the promise to send mages there, partly powered by the jade belts discovered in the previous book. This leads to some interesting culture clashes between the Bennamorians, with their rigid but effective magical spells, and the coastal ports, who don’t really believe in magic at all (even when they have some pretty powerful abilities themselves). I also enjoyed the difference between tightly controlled Bennamore, with its hierarchical system of rulers, and the looser confederacy of independent ports along the coast. So much fun, creating whole cultures!
This is the first appearance of people with full-blown innate magic (connections). In The Plains of Kallanash, the peculiar characteristics of the plains meant that this kind of magic was muted, and in The Fire Mages it was ignored or suppressed in favour of the more generalised magic of spell pages. But Fen has a connection to metal, and Kael has a very useful connection to stone. We also see the origin of the glass balls used to intimidate the aristocracy in The Plains of Kallanash, and the first of the scrying towers, which gives our rather rustic heroes a glimpse of one of the great cities along the northern coast of the continent (it’s actually Drakk’alona, visited by the characters in The Dragon’s Egg, if memory serves).
I don’t think this book was quite as tightly written as The Fire Mages. There were some unanswered questions, like why were armed guards posted outside a deserted tower? How do the mages’ vessels get recharged so far from Bennamore (by the jade belts? No idea). And in the final romantic scene, my hero and heroine look out at the heart-warming sight of a dragon family frolicking above the southern ocean. An egg-laying species with a nuclear family? Whatever was I thinking? Also Chapter 8 talks about Ish’s son, when it’s clearly a daughter – Jinnia from The Plains of Kallanash.
I think I might try to get The Plains of Kallanash reread next, all 220K words of it. I may be gone for some time.