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Title: The Isle of Battle
Series: The Swan’s War #2
Author: Sean Russell
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Scan
Hafydd follows Alaan into the Stillwater, who in turn is followed by Elise. The Stillwater is a swamp that was created by their uncle when he cast a spell to sunder the lands and to prevent him from going through Death’s Gate. Each of Wyrr’s children bring a group of followers with them and at some point each group must decide if their leader is truly worth following.
Meanwhile, the Rennes and the Wills begin their battle out in the known world. But with various smaller players potentially playing both sides, who is to know who will win? All of this is told through the eyes [ha] of Lord Carral, who is blind and Lady Lynne, who hides in her night garden so no one will see her hideously burned face.
While the first book, The One Kingdom, was much like the river that most of the story played out on, this book was very much like the Stillwater that half the story takes place in. A lot of paddling, a lot of fighting, a lot of movement but eventually it all leads to the characters simply trying to stay alive and to get out of the swamp.
This is once again a very character driven story. Lord Caral, father of Elise, thinking she is dead makes deals with the Renne to try to bring about a peace between the 2 families. He heads off to battle, even while being blind, and it is a testament to Russell’s skill that the story doesn’t suffer at all when being told from a blind man’s perspective. In many ways I enjoyed the story parts more from his perspective than any of the Siblings [Hafydd, Alaan or Elise].
Things escalate. Where as in the first book we are dealing with the Children of Wyrr, *powerful sorcerers* [insert your own ghost noises], suddenly we’re dealing with their Uncle, who was powerful enough to sunder the lands and cheat death for Millenia. Combine that with Hafydd’s desire to cheat death and suddenly you have an Uncle and a Nephew, both powerful sorcerers, who are willing to work together even while trying to control the other. It is like stepping into the shallow end of a swimming pool that turns into a pond that then turns into an ocean. Unexpected depths and currents.
When I read this back in ’09, I noted how quick things moved. This time around, I didn’t feel like it moved quickly at all. More things happen, yes, but much like Alice in Wonderland, they had to run as fast as they could just to stay in place. Nobody WENT anywhere. I am already interested what I’m going to think of this when I read it again in a decade or so.
The other change is that I went from 5stars to 4stars. The biggest part is because the ecopy I read was an unproofed digital scan. That has nothing to do with the book itself, but does go to show how formatting, grammar, spelling, etc really are the building block upon which a story is built. I’m definitely going to be buying an official copy for my read of the final book. At one point things were so garbled that I was tempted to pull my hardcover off the shelf and finish the book with that.
The other reason I dropped it down was because I felt overwhelmed by the introduction of Aillyn, Wyrr’s brother and the sibling’s Uncle. I thought that the Children of Wyrr were a big enough threat without suddenly making them small in comparison.
The good side of this book is that the writing is just as fantastic as the first. Russell writes slowly, ponderously and with the weight of his ideas pushing you on. It felt like a tsunami wave, that starts very deep in the ocean and isn’t really seen until it hits the shore. The end of the book was the Shore.
In closing, I have no regrets about buying this trilogy in hardcover or in re-reading this. I recommend this trilogy by Russell unreservedly.