Review: The Ships of Merior, Janny Wurts

Rating: 5 out of 5

I was pleasantly surprised by the turn towards the sea in this second volume of the grand saga by Ms Wurts. The title originally kept me guessing, but a few chapters in (perhaps half a book…) the events that unfold become a lot clearer. However, the book also failed in living up to the claim that this author’s books finish the main story lines within one volume.

The positive first. Rarely has a sequel been this original, keeping the strengths of the previous book and building on these. This also applied to the characters who really make this story: Dakar becomes more annoying (if this is possible) than previously but this is primarily because he really seems to fixate on the things in Arithon’s character that he despises while taking everything else as accidental, a duplicity waiting to be revealed. While this is a very human shortcoming, one could expect a five centuries old prophet to be better.

Elaira joins the events at just the right time though her relationship with Arithon does not develop as I originally expected. Yet, these make for some of the best chapters in the book, even if Elaira does not get the screen time she could have (and should have). Arithon and Lysaer, meanwhile, are rather predictable while the final showdown still managed to surprise. Of these protagonists, Lysaer’s are much less enjoyable, mostly because they are mainly complaining about the Master of Shadow. Arithon, meanwhile, goes through his training as a bard and a few side-quests, most of which should not have come his way nor been accepted—which of course means that they did and they were.

But the negative… I was primarily disappointed that the new plot lines raised in the book were not completed. Starting the first volume, some reviewers wrote that each book (in this saga) comprises several arcs which all get a conclusion in that volume. In this case, at least three (minor) story lines were left open: Kharadmon, the Waystone, and the Alestrom Captain’s. It seemed to me that every indication was given (perhaps except for Kharadmon) that these stories would be brought to completion in this book which made it all the more disappointing to come to the end without this closure. Yet, I do see from a writing point of view why topping off the “main climax” with some anti-climactic events would not have been that wise.

All in all, this gives me another reason to continue with the next volume. It is not like I wasn’t planning to in any case, but I now have more realistic expectations for how much one book will draw to a close. This doesn’t mean you should not give these books a try—it’s still near-perfect high fantasy and the author’s tendency to leave story lines going is still much less prevalent than in some series!

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