Wednesday 16 April 2008

Lady of Mercy - Michelle Sagara West

Lady of Mercy is the third book in the Sundered Quadrology. This is the Benbella reissue published in 2006. I think the reason this has been on my TBR pile for a while is that unlike some series, I don't know where or how the story is going to go. So it's not like I can think - I fancy reading some light urban fantasy, or a crime thriller. The plot isn't clearly signposted and in the course of the first two books some awful things happen. So not really a series I'd recommend if you're feeling a little bit down. In Book 3 I have no idea whether the characters will succeed or fail on their quest, only that they will try.

The story picks up virtually straight from the end of Book 2. Erin and Darin have left Stefanos (First of the Dark Sundered) behind. Erin has remembered who she was and wants to free the people that Stefanos has enslaved. She and Darin join forces with a mage - Trethar, and a thief - Robert. They journey to Marantine where they will fight the first battle in the new war between Light and Dark.

Plotwise you could argue not a lot happens here - Erin and Darin join forces with the deposed crown Prince of Marantine, and journey to Marantine with the intention of ridding the Dark Church from the city, and restoring the rightful monarch to the throne.

However, within this story so much else happens. It's a book of what happens between, between finding out the truth and ending the war. Erin remembers who she is, she remembers the fate of Belfas, Kandor and the warriors who came to kill Stefanos so many centuries ago. They are now tied to a dark place, an anchor for her immortality, and as long as she lives they cannot pass over. Erin blood vows to destroy all that Stefanos built up for the Dark. She says she hates him now, but a part of her misses him.

She also discovers the truth about The Lady of Elliath, that her grandmother knew the fate of her mother and father and did nothing to stop it. A very bitter pill for her to swallow.

This is really a story where things start coming together. And unlike the previous two books, it has many light moments. Most of which come from the character of Robert/Renar. Though this optimism and hope, is countered by Erin and Darin's more sombre attitudes.
"Gods, Renar, you stink."
"Really? How kind of you to say so."
Don't become too complacent though, there are still moments in the story that cut like a knife.

There are two more major characters who Erin and Darin meet up with as they flee Mordantari. Trethar an old mage who takes Darin on as his student and teaches him how to call the fire that comes from neither the dark, nor the light. And Robert a foppish thief, who is hiding a secret. Indeed, that's a big thing in this book - characters hiding the truth of themselves, keeping secrets, wearing 'masks', and secrets being found out.

The story starts quite slowly but builds as the quest gains momentum. In particular there are two scenes that stood out for me in the second half of the book. The first a scene between Renar and Erin on the night before they try to take back the city of Marantine. He is fighting this battle to restore Marantine, to give the people back the life they have lost. But she has only ever known war, from the time she was very small until now. She has no concept of a 'life' outside that conflict. They dance together in the training room, and he tries to show her a little of the life they are fighting for.

The second is actually multiple scenes - the battle itself. Told in short bursts from the points of view of many characters. It gives a small idea of the confusion of such a situation. Very well written.

Stefanos only makes a very brief appearance. Also in the first half of the story Erin takes a back seat to what's happening to Darin, Robert and Trethar. But the characters in this story are so well drawn, everything is moving the plot forward.

There is a very important quote that Erin uses to persuade a bereaved father/grandfather to join the fight.
"Do not turn that love inward; it was never meant to be a weapon."
The reason I think this is important is that this is something she is doing, she has turned her love for Stefanos into a weapon. But deep down inside she knows 'it was never meant to be a weapon'.

Just to mention there is a whacking big twist at the end of this story. I almost suspected it, but not quite, so it still had my mouth dropping open. :) It's the sort of twist that makes you want to read the whole book again because you know it's going to alter your perception of events.

One little niggle is that the term Pyrrhic victory is used twice. And this is a fantasy book set in another world, but the term refers to a specific battle which actually took place in 279 B.C.

Finally at the end. Sargoth (the Second) manipulates the First of the Darkness. And soon Erin and Stefanos will meet on the field of battle once more. I almost dread reading Book 4, this hasn't been the sort of series where happy endings are guaranteed. But I so want to know what happens next.


Carolyn Crane said...

"They dance together in the training room, and he tries to show her a little of the life they are fighting for."

That sounds like a very sweet scene. Nice review.

LesleyW said...

Carolyn Jean - it is perhaps the sweetest scene in the series so far. The whole series has been dark, brilliantly written but sometimes very hard to get through. So this book was a nice change of pace. But when the black moments come they're like little spikes.

Brie said...

I have been debating on starting this series (I'm already committed to way too many), but this review makes me want to take that leap.

LesleyW said...

Brie - it is very dark. I haven't yet read book 4 so I'm not sure about how it all pulls together at the end. Hope to get book 4 read as part of TBR Wednesdy. Though for May I've read Poison Study.

Sarai said...

I have read Cast in Shadows and fell in love with this author. I didn't realize she had a whole other series. Geez I am for sure checking it out. Which one did you prefer?

LesleyW said...

Sarai - I'm ashamed to admit I bought Cast in Shadows first but still haven't read it. :blushes: That's definitely going to be a future TBR Wednesday because everyone raves about it so much.

The Sundered Quadrology is very dark and some bits were quite upsetting. I'm interested to see how she ties it all together in the final book which I've yet to read. It's a series I haven't been able to read one straight after the other. The second book in particular there's a scene where I had to put the book down and leave it for a few days. But I love the way she writes, she lets the reader use their imagination.

LesleyW said...

Sarai, if you check the links for Sundered, I've got reviews for the first two books in the series tagged as well.

Anonymous said...

I read the first two books a long time ago but I couldn't complete the story until I recently discovered that the entire series was being reprinted. Finally, an ending! I think it really says something that although it's literally been years since I put down Children of the Blood, Erin's story stayed with me and it felt natural to pick up Lady of Mercy and continue on the path. I finished reading it and you are right about the plot twist! I did not see that coming at all. I would dive right into the last book but my eyes are tired and honestly, I don't want to say goodbye to these characters.

LesleyW said...

Jen I found with this series that I had to take a break between books. That I didn't want to just plow straight into the next one. I haven't started Book 4 yet, but it will definitely be one of my TBR reads before the end of the year.