October 18, 2004

The Gathering Flame
The Long Hunt
by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald

These are the fourth and fifth books in the Mageworlds series, and I'm reviewing them as a pair because in an odd way they go together.

The initial three books in the series tell the story of the Second Magewar from the viewpoint of Beka Rosselin-Metadi, star-pilot and Domina-in-waiting of the lost planet of Entibor. The Gathering Flame takes place a generation earlier, in the opening days of the First Magewar. As the book begins, the known galaxy is divided into two regions: the Civilized Worlds, and the Mageworlds. The Mages have begun to raid the planets of the Civilized Worlds, which remain woefully disunited in the face of the threat. And so Perada Rosselin, the Domina of Entibor, travels to the frontier world of Innish-Kyl to seek a leader with a proven capability to unite disparate forces to take the war to the Mages--privateer captain Jos Metadi.

The book goes on to relate Perada's and Jos's efforts to unite the Civilized Worlds, and ends with the destruction of Entibor by the Mages. (That's not a spoiler, by the way...this is a prequel, after all, and you'll notice that Beka is the Domina-in-waiting of Lost Entibor.) On the way, we also see a number of scenes from their respective childhoods.

The Long Hunt, by contrast, takes place a generation after the Second Magewar, and concerns a number of adventures had by Beka's son Jens and his cousin Faral. The events of this book seem oddly detached from those of the earlier book--but in fact they are not. And what ties them together is the ghostly presence of one Errec Ransome, star-pilot, adept, hero of the First Magewar, the Breaker of Circles.

Ransome worked as a star-pilot as a young man, until his talent manifested and he became an Adept on the planet Ilarna. So great were his powers that he was sent to the master guildhouse on Galcen for training. And shortly after his return to Ilarna, the planet was attacked by the Mages. The other Adepts in his guildhouse were slain; young Errec was taken captive.

Both Mages and Adepts can sense the currents of power and probability that flow through the universe, but they have entirely different philosophies and goals. Adepts do not manipulate the currents of power, but try to ride them instead. Mages regard power as a garden to be tended and brought into pleasing order. Not surprisingly, they don't get along.

Errec manages to escape, at great cost to himself, and makes his way back to the Civilized Worlds, where he falls in with Jos Metadi. Metadi wants to hunt Mages; Errec is happy to help Jos find them. And therein hangs a tale. One can argue, in fact, that although he's rarely on stage all of the Mageworlds books to date are mostly about Errec Ransome.

I can't say more without spoiling things; suffice it to say that I enjoyed both of these books immensely.

Posted by Will Duquette at October 18, 2004 07:51 PM