Sinclair, Alison -- Shadowborn [e-book purchase]

Conclusion of divided-species trilogy. This worked very well for me in some ways, and fell down significantly in others. Biggest fall: the storyline overlaps the previous book in the series. But I read Lightborn a year ago and I just don't have the details to hand. The viewpoint characters here are explicitly far away from the previous batch, so they don't know what's going on, and this is part of the story. Nonetheless, the plot threads do pass occasionally, like trains in the night. (Literally, at one point.) When this happens I wind up noticing only belatedly and only what the narrative nudges me with, so all the fun of the intertwined plotting is lost. The titanic battle of magic at the end wound up kind of confusing, simply because all these threads came together and half of them were blurry. I know what happened -- it wasn't unclearly written -- I just wasn't in the moment.

This is the sort of storytelling where everyone goes through hell, and the sort of trilogy where the hell ramps up to a carefully orchestrated sequence of catastrophes. I like that in a trilogy. Plenty of variety (military assault, then kidnapping, then assassination -- take politics for granted as a running theme) and all very personal, both for the protagonists and antagonists. Many, many awesome people in these books. Then we finally get to meet the Shadowborn, and of course they and their problems are just as complex as the ones we've gotten familiar with.

Another good point: this series really gets across that your average semi-immortal semi-omnipotent sorcerer is not a healthy member of society. Last time I was theorizing the Lightborn nobility are nuts because they get assassinated three times a week and sometimes twice before breakfast. Here it's clear that the higher-level mages are just plain nuts, as a group. We're not talking genteel robed chuckleheads and Voldemort-style evil. By and large, they regard other people as toys -- malleable toys -- and hundreds of years is plenty of time to get into a rut.

This was my other problem with the book. The rationale for the setting was always "Mad Archmage Imogene cursed the entire population of the continent," which is an awesome premise because it's clearly crap. One, nobody gets that mad just because their daughter was killed; two, if you are you probably can't convince your whole mad-mage's guild and mad-sewing circle to join you in enacting the curse, especially when the backlash will certainly kill you all; three, revenge usually involves horrible murder and not, say, handcrafting two new species of human being who are perfectly adapted to their new lifestyles. (Vengeance curse comes with free sonar senses! Really? Plus the earlier books note that the Darkborn have zero incidence of congenital deafness; similarly the Lightborn and blindness. Stuff like that.)

So we get to the end, and -- spoiler -- the truth is that Imogene really was that crazy, after all. (Albeit also good at mind-control, which helped out with the sewing circle business.) This is a small disappointment amidst a generally satisfactory wrap-up, but I wish there'd been more to that. The young crazy Shadowborn mage is a great character, but everybody from the Elder Days (on-stage or in historical recollection) is to some degree an opaque plot contrivance.

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