Thursday, June 23, 2016

An Elf A Halfbreed and A Dragon Walk Into A Book

One of my favorite things about used book stores is the availability of older books to find that may not be available so readily on the shelves of our favorite big box store.  One of these books I found was The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey.  I remember stealing this book from a friend in highschool and am very happy to have rediscovered it as a bit of a more mature reader. Shall we see what these two favored authors of mine came up with?  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
I'm gonna give you fair warning.  This first book in the Halfblood Chronicles...well the whole series in all honesty is a pretty complex if this synopsis is a bit confusing that is probably why.  Also vodka.  Ok let's jump into this shall we.  We start with a human woman by the name of Serina Daeth remembering the events that led to her wandering and pregnant through the desert.  We learn that this world was initially populated by humans who have what the call mind magic, but were dominated and conquered by alien elves who came from another world through some sort of portal.  The Elves are now the dominate force and have enslaved the humans for hundreds of years through the use of breeding, conditioning and their own potent magic.  Serina was a human concubine in one of the high lord's Dyran's household.  She made herself invaluable to the lord and ascended to his favorite.  A jealous fellow concubine switched out the food that contained Serina's birth control, causing her to become pregnant with Dyran's child.  In this world carrying a halfbreed is tantamount to death as the elves are deathly afraid of the combined magic powers that a human/elf combo wields.  With the birth imminent Serina flees and is found by one of the Kin, a dragon who's magic is the ability to shape shift into just about anything.  The Kin, who also come from another world, hide themselves from both humans and elves for fear of conflict.  Serina gives birth to a baby girl and dies.  The dragon Alara, who is also the clans Shaman decides to adopt the baby and raise it.  The baby is named Shana and is raised by Alara and her son Keman.  Alara's daughter Myre is not so enthused about her foster sister.  Alara teaches both Shana and Keman how tho use their own special talents.  After an incident where Shana displays her unique magical talents in defense of her foster brother, the clan freak and force Alara to send her away. Keman takes off after her to try and find and help her. Shana ends up back in the city of her birth confused and afraid. She is put up for action and "bought" by a supposed representitive of Lord Dyran, who actually turns out to be another halfbreed who has come to rescue Shana.  Shana is shocked to discover other halfbreeds like herself in a place called the Citidale, and ancient stronghold left  over from the old wizard (what the elves call halfbreeds) war.  Here Shana continues to develop her powerful magic and discovers some shocking secrets in the historical records kept in the Citidale.    Meanwhile back in the elven city, Lord Dyran's son and heir Valyn conspires to get his halfbreed cousin and friend Mero to safety.  They end up at the Citidale where they join with Shana and Keman, who has finally caught up with his foster sister.  They are persued by an elven army who have discovered that the wizards are still alive and kicking.  Much action and chaos and angst ensue (seriously so many subplots!) and the merry band are eventually aided by a group of Kin who have decided that they can no longer hide.  The Kin and wizards decided that they can no stay hidden forever.  They all gather around Shana as the prophesied Elvenbane and decide to try and take down the reigning elves...but that is a story for the next book.
Worldbuilding - This book is very detailed...sometimes to the point of over explanation.  That being said this book is full of a fully realized world filled with various races, cultures, politics and details. It is a world that is mostly based on a class like fantasy world with just a touch of sci fi thrown in for good measure.   I feel like the world was built in a completely realized manner with all of the various races and their unique specifics explained and fit together in a seamless manner.  We get enough history and current affairs of the world to know exactly what is going on and each piece is thoroughly though out.  A+ on world building.

Story - The book gives us an epic story spanning time and space, individual and groups, small places and world wide stories.  This story is complex, yet interesting.  It combines the individual stories apace with the wider scope that affects everybody.  It is interesting and varied and gives the reader a reason to continue to turn the page.  There were so many threads and subplots that one never got bored with any one storyline, and yet the authors managed to keep the story as a whole completely coherent.

Characters - I absolutely loved the huge variety of characters in this book.  Each of the characters that got page time were unique and multi-faceted.  We get to see people from every race, class and walk of life.  This not only gives us some extra world building cred, but makes me feel like this is a real place with real people.  I love it when a character, especially the main ones have strengths and weaknesses and individual likes and dislikes, it gives a ring of authenticity and makes me root for them.  I also like it when their is more to the "bad guys" then them being flat out bad.  There is just so much to love when it comes to the characters in this book, it makes me so happy!

Editing - Two separate authors worked on this book and (this is a compliment) you can't tell.  The book flows smoothly and there is no sign of a struggle between the two authors.  The only real complaint I would have is that sometimes I felt that the book got over explanatory.  Overall though the editing was an assets to the book and we will see if this continues through out the series.

Two Authors - Speaking of the two authors...I have read and enjoyed both Norton's and Lackey's works (as my rambling list can attest to).  I felt like both authors were very well represented in this book.  I could easily find Norton's signature sci fi/fantasy mix.  The premise that the Kin and the Elves both came from other worlds through either magical or scientific means to shape the world our story is set in is very much in the vein of our lady Norton.  Lackey's in depth characters and complex plot...and overexplenation is also very much evident.  I think the combination of these two ladies of epicness is pretty awesome.

The Prophecy - In the book a re-occuring thread is the vague prophecy of the Elvenbane...which the book is named for.  We learn that the Kin have been spreading the rumor of the prophecy both uchto bolster the humans and to discourage the elves.  When Shana appears and begins to lead the non elves in rebellion it seems the prophecy may actually be true.  The part I like best about this book is the debate about whether Shana is actually the fulfillment of the prophecy or if she is the embodiment of a self fullfilling prophecy or if the only reason people even think of her as the Elvenbane is because of the efforts of the Kin.  This type of thinking and discussion always makes me happy because it gives so much thought to the difference between magic, religion, human thinking, science and practicality.  I don't know, I just like it.

Various Factions - I think the think that held my interest the most in this book was that there was no good vs evil.  Instead we were introduced to three (well four if you count the halfbreeds) very different races.  Within each of these races were groups and individuals with their own agendas.  This leads to so much mass chaos that you totally understand why the real world is so messed up.  It was great to see that just because you were a human or an elf or a dragon that the you did not necessarily think the same as the rest of your race.  This added so many layers and possible combinations of individuals and plans that you felt that almost anything was realistically possible.  This made a fantasy book about humans, dragons and elves into an epic examination of motivation and environment.

Overall Impression - Overall I really enjoyed this book, it was complex and interesting.  I stopped several times to consider various ideas that the book brought up.  For a supposed "fantasy" novel I feel that this book brings up a lot of very in depth and layered things to piece together.  I found it engaging, entertaining, page turning and overall worthy of picking up and finishing the series.  I give it 8 out of 10 beryls and now need to scour the bookstore for the next book in the series.  Happy Reading Everybody!

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