Review: Warhost of Vastmark, Janny Wurts

Rating: 5 out of 5

I am skipping through the War of Light and Shadow saga and it’s because it is so very good. Saying that, I have to add that I can imagine many people for whom this would be an unwelcome trudge. Yet, compared to the first book, the author’s descriptive style has become less strong (unless I have got used to it), leaving more time to enjoy the scenery and events. Reading that this was intended to be a part of the same book as the preceding volume (Book 2), makes me better understand the reasons why some of the arcs did not end as expected which was one of my main gripes at the end of the preceding book. By the conclusion of this volume, the stories are that much neater that the reader can jump away from the action for—well, I don’t know for how long. It’s clear that the action will continue, but I’m not quite sure when.

I was disappointed we did not get to experience more of Elaira. She barely features in this book and while the Koriathani are in general not that involved, they do cause a bit of trouble. At the same time, I have to admire the author who does not feel that a character needs to be involved with every scene of a group just because they belong to that group. Dakar is probably the chief secondary (tertiary?) protagonist and his path is amazing to behold. From a really grumpy and annoying person, we get to behold someone learning lessons they managed to ignore for the best part of five centuries. Old gruff Caolle features more than Jieret and displays some of the same qualities that Dakar did. Meanwhile, on the “opposing” side we get the relatively amusing Lord Commander Diegan who seems to be one of the few of Lysaer’s underlings who spends some time thinking. Talith meanwhile also becomes a character that’s a pleasure to read in the few chapters she is in. And, the s’Brydion family deserves a mention if only because one of them spells outright to Lysaer that poor tactics cause more trouble than a platoon of Masters of Shadow.

The chief protagonists, Lysaer and Arithon, naturally continue their feud. Vastmark is the place of the showdown and Arithon revels in the dreary old mountains while Lysaer is much more regretful of having left behind “civilization”. Throughout, Lysaer enjoys massive numerical superiority while Arithon has a small band of people, ready to do the utmost. Yet, Arithon’s edge has always been in something other than field battles and given he cares for the lives of his people, much unlike Lysaer, we do not really see a pitched battle like in the first book. Naturally, however, everything flames flames the feud between the half-brothers and the stakes become ever greater. In this the author managed to pick out a pretty good way of highlighting the errors of relying solely on justice—or that at least is what I think she is doing. Apparently, it would be entirely right to rely on Lysaer’s judgement in these matters as well in which case one would disagree with the above.

I haven’t been this immersed in a world in a long time, and I don’t really want the story to end. I have taken a side but I hope that much like some of the characters in the book, I would have the capacity to change my opinion if the facts no longer suited. Knowing how Ms Wurts works, I wouldn’t say that this can’t happen in the upcoming books—but I’ll go and take a look.

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