Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Spirit of the Stone - by Maggie Furey

Please note this is the second book of The Shadowleague and may contain spoilers. The first book in the series is 'The Heart of Myrial'.

The Spirit of the Stone takes up where the previous book, The Heart of Myrial, ends. Evil creatures who kill all in their path have descended on Myrial. The Curtain Walls are breaking! All those who survive are huddled in the Temple, one of the only secure places away from the fiends. One small group however has escaped the city and must try and find their way to safety. Meanwhile Loremaster Veldan and her sidekick Kaz have to deal with the problem of the Zavahl, the Hierarch they saved from a sacrificial pyre who just so happens to have the memories of a Dragon Seer in his head. Meanwhile Lord Blade is on a mission to avenge the wrongs that have been done against him.

One of the main problems with Spirit of the Stone is that there are far too many different storylines to follow. By the end of the book some of these are beginning to merge but the action is taking place in so many different locations with so many different characters that it is hard to keep up. In some ways the story is far too complex and perhaps could have been simplified in places. There are storylines (such as the one involving Shree the Wind-Sprite) that are given so little time on paperand appear so briefly you wonder at their relevance. Perhaps the third and final book, The Eye of Eternity will deal with this issue and everything will finally come together.

Another problem I had with the book is that it's almost impossible to know who the heroes are and who you should side with. Maggie Furey is admirable in her attempt to produce well rounded characters with flaws as much as positive traits but by the end of this book I was left confused at who was on whose side and whether the bad guys really were the bad guys. Theres an awful lot of backstabbing or potential backstabbing and switching of allegiances. One particular change of allegiance takes a matter of pages (this is towards the end of the book in a cave) which does not seem right. Surely these particular two need more than just a few lines to form an uneasy alliance? There are also characters that have been built up through the book as heroes that towards the end of the book you see an unsavoury side to that just doesn't seem right or in character. Again perhaps this will be resolved in the final installment?

The book really does suffer from being the second book of a trilogy. There is an air of getting from A to B to facilitate the story moving from the first book to the third book and in some ways it can feel laboured at times. It is still a readable book but unlike the first I wasn't captured by it and I often found myself putting it down and doing something else. I must admit it's not the first time I've tried to read it and I have been dazzled by other books whilst trying to read it and end up abandoning it.

Despite all my negative comments Maggie Furey does build on the characters she introduces in the first book. We learn more about them and several minor characters begin to come to the fore. I am particularly fond of Toulac and by the end of this book I'm beginning to warm to Zavahl. The corruption of several characters over time is well portrayed and she does give her characters room to change.

This is very much a book to read if you read 'The Heart of Myrial' and enjoyed it and want to see the trilogy through. I would not recommend this as a stand alone book given the complexity of the story lines. Am hoping to have my faith restored by the third and final installment.

*3 stars*

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