Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: Lightborn

Book #2 of the Darkborn Trilogy
by Alison Sinclair

Lightborn is the second book in the Darkborn Trilogy by Alison Sinclair.  The final volume, Shadowborn, is scheduled to be released in 2011.  The first volume is Darkborn, and was recently reviewed by me.

In this installment, Sinclair expands the reader’s view of her unique world by introducing three Lightborn characters (the previous book followed three Darkborn characters.  For more information on the world, please see my review of Darkborn).  We had already met Floria White Hand briefly in the previous book, and now she becomes a main character.  We follow her into the ruling court of the Lightborn, where she introduces us to Fejelis, son and heir to the prince, and the rebellious mage Magister Tammorn.  Darkborn Lady Telmaine also returns to keep us abreast of developments on the other side of sunset.  The other two main characters from Darkborn, Dr. Balthasar Hearne and Baron Ishmael di Studier do not appear in this book, being offstage preparing for the third book.  I’m sure when we see them again, they will be chock full of useful information.

Floria White Hand is a valued and trusted guard and food taster for the Lightborn prince, and when he is assassinated in a bizarre fashion, she becomes a suspect.  Being unable to prove her innocence, and having far too many political enemies, she claims asylum from the Darkborn.  Before leaving, however, she gives Fejelis the advice of hiring Magister Tammorn to investigate his father’s death because Tammorn is as far removed from mage politics as it is possible to get.  Fejelis and Tammorn work on finding out who killed Prince Isidore while keeping Fejelis alive through another round of attempted assassinations.

Meanwhile, Lady Telmaine is in the Darkborn court trying to master her neglected magical skills enough to keep the Archduke and his brother, the spymaster, alive.  More assassination attempts here, and yes, all these people trying to kill other people are in fact connected.  In any case, things do not go well for Telmaine (this being the second book of three, nothing should go right).  However, all the important people survive and get enough clues to move on to the showdown in book three.

If you are still under the misconception that these books are fantasy romances, I shall further disabuse you of the notion here.  There is not a single romantic line in this book, unlike the hint of one in the earlier book.  Lots of action, lots of politics, lots of intrigue, and of course, lots of fantasy.

My only complaint about this book is that the Lightborn court is really glossed over.  We’ve had an entire book to figure out how the Darkborn politics and society work, but the Lightborn do not get equal billing.  Part of this is that they are, by force, more familiar to us because they have the same set of senses we do.  However, there’s a lot of socio-economical and geo-political stress in this society, and we get barely a taste of it and how it all came to be.  The need for space to explain all of the action has taken precedence over world building, and while the book works well, I’d still like some more background.

Lightborn is available in trade paperback, and e-book editions.  I would recommend this book to fans of Sharon Shinn, Mercedes Lackey, Gregory Frost, and N. K. Jemisin.


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