01/04/2009. Contributed by Jill Roberts
pub: HarperVoyager. 800 page paperback, £8.99, ISBN: 978 0 00 710108 5.
check out website: www.harpercollins.com
'Peril's Gate' begins with Arithon fleeing the town of Jaelot where a trap had been set for him by Morriel, the Koriander Prime Matriach. His plan is to head for Ithamon, for only in the East Tower can he gain respite from the curse of a mistwraith.
Desh Thiere's curse upon Arithon, Lord of Shadow, and his half-brother Lysaer, Lord of Light, is that unless they stay many leagues apart, they will both succumb to a blood lust or a burning desire to kill each other and any that stand in their way. Lysaer does not have the mage-taught skills to curb this urge and calls upon The Alliance to provide a limitless supply of troops to root out and kill Arithon and any of his kinsmen that they come across and put them to the sword, whether they be man, woman or child.
After Arithon's escape from Jaelot, a company of skilled trackers and veteran field troops are sent out to harry his progress. They do so with such dogged determination that they travel through the ragged weather to arrive at Ithamon before Arithon. Foiled in his original plan, Arithon has to change direction and head for sanctuary at Althain Tower.
Elarira, a third level Koriandi Initiate, needing word of Arthion, has to leave her Koriani sisterhouse at Highscarp. She travels to neutral territory, a hostel of Ath's Brotherhood at Whitehaven, so she can scry for news of him in private and negate her ties to the sisterhood.
Jiret, Earl of the North, is sworn caithdein to Arithon. This link causes him to sense that Alliance troops have got to Ithamon before he and his clansmen can meet with Arithon. Using the gift of magesight, Jiret divines a new course of action. They will travel to a spot on the River Aiyenne with the aim of joining their prince and turning back Lysaer and his invading Armies of Light.
This course of action is also blocked, by further reinforcements of Alliance troops. As a final attempt to evade the blood lust, Arithon makes for the high Mathorns and the dreaded Kewar Tunnel. As Arithon stepped across the threshold into Daviens Maze, the warding forces that guard the cavern, snap shut behind him, severing all contact with the outside world. Arithon is now sealed off from his pursuers, but also the consuming blood lust of Desh Thiers' curse, for Daviens dread maze tests the character and previous actions of anyone who chooses to enter it. In the past, many men have been sent mad by their trials, but Arithon is no ordinary man.
'Peril's Gate' is about the Third Age of Altheria - the age of man. The main story concerns the curse of a mistwraith upon the two men that were able to capture and contain it. There are other threads interwoven, the petty politics at the court of the king, the love Arithon and Elaira have for each other. Two warring factions - those of the light and those of the shadow with the neutral buffer between them is Ath's Brotherhood. The Korriani Prime Matriarch and her plan's to wrest power from The Alliance are an unwanted complication.
Arithon is a master bard and Prince of Rathain. Yet his concern for the welfare of others, forces him to flee from Lysaer and his troops, rather than see kinsmen slain unnecessarily. Arithon and Elaira are deeply in love and share an empathic bond yet their time together can be measured in snatched days rather than leisurely months or years. I feel for Elarias plight, her love for Arithon can not be freely declared. He cannot walk about the streets openly, due to Lysaers massed ranks of troops and mercenaries in the quest to kill Arithon and all his kin. I care what happens to the people here, especially Arithon and Elaira and really feel the anger and injustice of Lysaers warped crusade. I really feel for the plight of Arithon, cast as the villain of the piece, yet it is Lysaer that lies and kills on a false quest, a 'holy crusade' against his half-brother, purely because of the blood lust caused by Desh Thieres' curse.
There is a hunger to read on, to learn more about what happens to these people and their lives, because this series of books speaks of a world with a past, present and future, populated by living breathing people, of warring cultures, townspeople blind to the magic of nature, riding roughshod over old ways of magic. The needs of town tradesmen had been negotiated by generations of clan chieftains, who honour the old rights of way drawn by Parvian law into harmony. Clan chieftains and their bloodlines and country people work with nature to seek balance and harmony wherever they walk the old ways of the Parvians. Alliance troops, townsmen, country-born clansmen, Koriani seers, Fellowship mages and the adepts of Ath's Brotherhood. Plus the mistwaiths and the mysteries left by the Parvians, three ancient races of semi-immortal beings who have now all but disappeared from this world. They were centaur guardians of the land who created the old rights of way.
I found the writing to be brilliant storytelling, this is a multi-layered and enthralling read, that totally absorbed my interest from page to page. Therefore, I would heartily recommend this book to anybody who enjoys reading complex fantasy stories.
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