Off the Shelf
By Marcus Pan
Fiona McIntosh rides a fine line between
verbose and fluid, somehow finding a thin line to walk between the two to
deliver such as her second trilogy, The Quickening. Beginning with
Myrrens Gift, we are introduced to a fantasy world of
course without the usual trappings of consistent magic, abysmal dragons
and orcish lairs. Instead we have a more real-world glimpse concentrating on
the subterfuge of men in particular as three kingdoms stand on the verge of
outright war amongst each other with no obvious winner should this happen, all
having their own strengths and weaknesses.
If might makes right, then Morgravia should be the victor
with its grippingly strong Legion of soldiers. But with the death of the
benevolent and wise King Magnus, and ascension of his dark hearted and power
hungry son Prince Celimus, this particular realm is busy fending off its own
inbreeding of lies and deceit. Masterfully crafted plans waver on the crux of
discovery, being cunningly wrought time and again by the young and boorish new
king as more threads of treachery must be drawn out to cover the previously
wrought lies. It is Celimus hope to wed the newly ascended Queen
Valentyna of neighboring nation Briavel, whos untimely step up to the
throne weakens Morgravias neighboring foe through the lofty construct of
Celimus own threadbare web.
However if its goodness that karma upholds, then
Briavels weakened state at the assassination of their King Valor and the
sudden move of Princess Valentyna to take his place as their sovereign, they
would nonetheless see the outcome in their favor. Chased by the political
aspirations of a neighboring nation who for many years have warred with her
people who under the guise of peace seeks her hand, but knowing truly it would
plunge her own realm into a long-winded route of despair, Valentyna dodges the
marital question with parries of statesmanship and more than a little fear. But
knowing full well that the arrangement would, at the very least, increase both
nations strength against the unpredictable Cailech and his mountain realm
to the north.
Cailech of the Razor Mountains has, over the course of his
life, united the warring faction and tribes of the mountain people into a
cohesive whole. His eyes also gaze to the south, where the lands are softer,
the climate sweeter and the prosperity certainly more worthy of his people. As
his raiding parties and slight trespasses into the southern realms of both
Briavel and Morgravia get more than a little bolder, both southern nations must
fortify their northern borders while at the same time guarding from each
And through all this, runs General Wyl Thirsk, destined
General to the Legions of Morgravia, and his few allies. Early in his life
Wyls witness and show of compassion to a young claimed witch named
Myrren, a title to be burned by in Morgravias not yet distant years of
magic shunning, marks him with a gift known only as the Quickening.
A mysterious transference from person to person, body to body upon his
assassination by hired mercenary Romen Koreldy, he finds himself trapped in
another mans body yet still bound by the honor of his state. But first he
needs to figure out who Romen Koreldy is and what he was before
he can even hope to begin unraveling the threads of his own problems.
Before even anything gets worked out, another tactful
Celimus move finds Romen and by default Wyl once again murdered.
And once again he is trussed into the body of his murderer, this time a woman.
A very intriguing, dangerous and highly paid woman who is known as a very
ruthless assassin and leaves Wyl once again not knowing where it is safe to
roam with a past unknown to him and enemies who could be anyone. The only clue
is to seek out Myrrens birth father, a Manwitch, who might be able to
help Wyl unravel the secret of what, precisely, the Quickening is.
Once I got halfway or so through Myrrens Gift
it became one of those what next sort of deals. Blocks of hours
were whiled away with it, while just about everything else hovered just out of
sight. And within moments of finishing Myrrens Gift I barreled
headlong into the second book of the trilogy, Blood and Memory,
literally within moments. Like I said, Fiona manages to walk a fine line
between verbose and fluid, creating a wonderfully descriptive setting without
sacrificing much toward the swift movement of the story. Her characters are
breathtaking in their make-up, as real as, and sometimes more so, anyone you
might meet in your lifetime. Well done, already a few chapters into book two as
I write this.
"Myrrens Gift" by Fiona McIntosh
Design by Ervin Serrano
Cover Illustration by Les Petersen
© 2003 by Fiona McIntosh
 Im assuming not the on a burger bun
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