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The Sea Thy Mistress (the Edda Of Burdens trilogy book 3) by Elizabeth Bear

01/01/2012. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy The Sea Thy Mistress (the Edda Of Burdens trilogy book 3) in the USA - or Buy The Sea Thy Mistress (the Edda Of Burdens trilogy book 3) in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 334 page small hardback. Price: $25.99 (US), $29.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1884-8).

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‘The Sea Thy Mistress’ is the third volume in the ‘Edda Of Burdens’ trilogy, which presumably means it’s the final one. ‘All the Windracked Stars’ was the second book in the series chronologically but the first published. It was followed by ‘By the Mountain Bound’ which is the first volume chronologically but was published second. Reading ‘All the Windracked Stars’ was quite confusing because it made reference to past events one knew nothing about. Reading ‘By the Mountain Bound’ bought belated enlightenment. I don’t know why they were released in the wrong order. Ask the author.

Anyway, ‘The Sea Thy Mistress’ starts with the world restored. It was dying in the previous book. Muir, a sort of Angel, has sacrificed herself and joined with the sea, becoming the Bearer of Burdens and now her energy has led to plants and animals and life again all over the Earth, in some cosmic way. The novel opens with the sea disgorging a baby, son of Muir, and Cathoair, her former lover. It is cast at the feet of Aethelred, who looks after the child until Cathoair comes back to raise his son, Cathmar. I have to say their names are too similar and it gets confusing at times. Both Cathoair and Cathmar are Angels too, will live forever, barring death by combat and can heal themselves if hurt. The story also features moreaux, animals evolved to human intelligence by the Technomancer who used to rule the dying Earth. Alongside the Angels, people kissed by Muir and given some of her essence, they act as a kind of police force on the reborn world.

Mingan, the Grey Wolf, is still about. As is his sister, the Imogen, a deadly weapon, and the two-headed horse Kasimir, formerly Muire’s. Then Heythe, the goddess who bought about the destruction of the world in the first place, steps from the past into the present to gloat over her handiwork and sees that the world has been saved and is not pleased. Mingan knows better than to confront Heythe directly, so he gathers the troops, most of the above mentioned and ready to fight the good fight.

The style of the book is very modern with short chapters. It is also very poetic with prose that tries hard to invest every other sentence with meaning.
And impact.
This is accomplished by using short sentences quite a lot and putting them in paragraphs by themselves.
By themselves, mind.

The style strives to avoid those relatively dull bits in books where the characters are being moved around between the exciting moments. I first encountered this kind of writing in the ‘Star Trek’ books of Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.

I was impressed.
Can’t you tell?

I’m not so impressed now but I have to admit the Elizabeth Bear writes divinely and uses the verb that will carry the most impact. The senses are evoked and you feel along with the characters the ache of muscles, the sting of cold water, the warmth of an embrace. The only trouble is that all the characters are so overwrought, so agonized, so emotional, so deeply, deeply feeling about everything, especially relationships, that it’s a bit too much. I don’t believe warriors could be this sensitive in real life. They would have nervous breakdowns. Furthermore, though it may be sexist to say so, I don’t think men are this sensitive in real life. I speak from the limited vantage point of a working class Brit but if my mates were this soppy, I’d find some other ones.

My ambivalence about the style and the tortured romanticism of every character did not blind me to the fact that it’s a good story and, basically, I enjoyed it. To read this book as a standalone would be utterly futile though. The trilogy would be most rewarding read in the correct chronological order. Elizabeth Bear has won a few Hugos and is a force to be reckoned with in modern fantasy and Science Fiction.

Eamonn Murphy

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