Review: Peril’s Gate, Janny Wurts

Rating: 5 out of 5

The two favourite protagonists — Arithon and Elaira — jump into a mire of confusion, called Davien’s Maze, with the eponymous sorcerer’s apparent return confounding all understanding of ongoing events. The sorcerer supports one of the protagonists openly while luring the other one into a trap; yet, when the dust settles, is Arithon really trapped? The action does not stop with these two as everyone is under pressure to get things done. Things really are on the edge here, with action taking place from Lysaer’s grand capital to Rockfell Mountains, and not one battle could be lost for the world to be on very shaky ground indeed.

In many cases such world-rending conflicts look particularly implausible: why is everything coming to a head at the very same moment? And I did not particularly like it here either, but at least Ms Wurtz has left the causes for the various plot lines developing to be distinct from each other, at least in large part. Of course, Lysaer is a catalyst in many ways and his coming causes more destruction than one could have though. Yet, the price(s) paid on all parts seem to lock Lysaer into ever greater self-torment if he would ever be released from Mistwraith’s curse while the clansmen do their part to stave off ultimate defeat. In this way, I find that the author has managed to convey a typically important part of statesmanship in the most accurate way: Lysaer never takes responsibility; it is always his opponents who started the troubles, and he is merely reacting. And, yet, Lysaer calls armies to banners, Lysaer marches out in force, etc…

I was bored by Arithon’s wanderings in the destructive maze. In most cases one can be quite certain that the protagonist does not fall through an ancient and un-used system, and having to relive numerous bouts of the story we already know (plus many on did not know) with this assumed guaranteed survival makes for very slow pacing. This was definitely my least favourite part of the book, and possibly the series, but once again rescue was provided by Elaira whose over-the-shoulder view at events enabled the reader to understand more than just by observing Arithon. Elaira has, throughout, been the saving grace of the series, and though her part in this book is not considerable, she still does very much to make things work — while her own story line is also thoroughly captivating and allows for a few very satisfying moments.

This isn’t the strongest book in the series, but it’s strong enough. I kept to my general rule of continuing with a different series after a book from one series, but I also haven’t rushed back to continue the story. While I like the characters, the inevitable nature of the final solution that could only be awaiting our protagonists has ever seemed to be tightening. There’s a bit of hope things could be different after this book, but the author didn’t jump on this as much as I hoped she would (with some of the revelations from Davien’s Maze).

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