Friday, June 18, 2010

A book review: "The Charnel Prince"

I have planned to spend more time reading the sequel of "The Briar King", "The Charnel Prince", and to savor it for a week or so. Instead, I read it in less than three days. Of course, the book is quite short, less than 500 pages. But it mattered more that I couldn't leave it out of my hands.

To avoid revealing any spoilers about previous book, I will write just a general description here and part with the spoilers below. As you can remember, I liked "The Briar King" immensely. Second book features mostly known character, with addition of one new POV and a number of side-characters. It finished few plots started in the first book (I am relieved that most irritating plot is finished now), starts a few new ones and reveals more about whom and what the enemies are. On the other hand, it presents some new unexplained hints or theories, which will probably be explained in next books. This is a nice way to keep the reader interested.

I liked this book less that the first one. While first part was super fun and second books continues with the same style, characters and feeling of suspense, it offers less novelty. While plot advances forward and characters grow in ability and integrity, I have a feeling that all this could have been suppressed in fewer pages. However, I really enjoyed this book and have no reservations recommending it to those who liked first part.

To read a detailed description, containing spoilers about "The Briar King", continue further... To read my post about first book, click here...

As I said, "The Charnel Prince" keeps with the characters known from the first book. As most of the POV characters are now divided in several groups, it is easier to follow them (not that it was hard before, since there are not many characters).

One group consist of Princess Anne, her maid Austra, and their two companions: Cazio, impoverished duelist and z'Acatto, his fencing-master and substitute for father. Most focus is put on Anne, her fears about getting mad (because she doesn't accept her gifts) and her relationships to her friends. In this book, she loses much of her naivety and illusions about the world and her place in it. Cazio, other POV character of the group, doesn't get much attention, until the end of the book. However he, as Princess Anne, grows in character to become much more serious and solid, and less selfish. They four try to find their way back to Eslen, from land of the Vitello. Vitello is simillar to Renaissance Italy, in language and customs. More, it is located on the ex-territory of Hegemony, which was this world's version of Roman Empire, some thousand or more years extinct.

Sir Neil MeqVren, who became a sole guard of the Queen and the only person that she trusts, is sent to look for the Princess, although unwilling at first. He will have few adventures of his own on the road, find her and the loose her again. On his quest, he will meet mysterious Swanmay, a young lady I believe we will meet again in next books. Neil is feeling remorse and guilt for the death of Princess Fastia, his lost love. And before he can continue his quest and his life, he will first have to find his peace. His was the most interesting plot-line to follow. We got a lot of descriptions of habits of other people and other countries.

Next group is made of Aspar, Winna, Stephen and young forest-boy Ehawk (who doesn't have much importance, except at the beginning of the book). They are later joined by Leshya, a Sefry woman with more knowledge about the events and reasons than either of them. Four of them were sent by Praifec Hespero (some kind of Cardinal) to go to forest and kill the Briar King with magical, all-killing arrow. However, they already know that nobody is to trust, and some of their suspicions will show as truth. They are also interesting to follow, because they are very dynamic group and meet the most mysterious phenomena. They also reveal much of the history of this world, which I like very much.

Queen Muriel is now left alone, her adviser and friend Erren dead, and Sir Neil on a quest she sends him on. It is on her alone to defend the throne and her "Saint-touched" son Charles from subtle and masked attacks of Kingdom of Hanza, Praifec Hespero of Chuch and even from nobles of her own country, who see her and Charles as unfit to rule. And there are mystical problems that worry her also. She has it probably the hardest than any of other characters. While they find occasional respite from their troubles, she is under constant pressure. I liked the new character of Alis Berrye, mistress of the late king, who will become her secret (and surprisingly worthy) ally.

New POV character is Leovigild Ackenzal (it will be quite hard to remember how to spell this name). He is a composer with talents and wishes much before his time. Although I didn't see his importance after his appearance (and I don't really see it still), his was very fun plot-line to follow. I didn't think that story of composing an opera will be so interesting.

World and its history (both mundane and magic) are further revealed. We found about past wars and kingdoms; much of these are made upon our world (like with Vitello and Italy). Also, it is interesting to read how myths of this world got corrupted during time, which is mostly evident when Aspar and his lot meet creatures for fairy-tales,

As I said in introduction, this book doesn't bring enough new elements to be as interesting as the first, but it is nevertheless captivating and funny read in genre of classical high fantasy. I think that anybody who liked "The Briar King" will like "The Charnel Prince" and will be able to forgive these few minor flaws.

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