- Hardcover: 431 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books (April 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765309866
- ISBN-13: 978-0765309860
- Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 3.6 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,578,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Sisterhood of the Blade rules Medalon ruthlessly, stamping out any hint of heathen beliefs. With the First Sister having just been assassinated, Joyhinia thinks that she's going to be named head of the church. When that doesn't happen, she works a scheme to make it happen. Her daughter R'Shiel and her son Tarja get caught up in it, and find themselves on the run. They fall in with a rebellion against the Sisterhood, and end up even deeper into a massive change that will befall the world. Brak, a Harshini outcast, brings news that the Harshini, long thought dead, may be coming back. And worse, R'Shiel may be the Demon Child that has been foretold. War may be coming to the world, religious or political, with R'shiel and Tarja caught in the middle.
Fallon has created yet another fascinating world, with the various politics and religions thought out and explained. There's Medalon with the Sisterhood, the Hythrun who believe in all of the gods, and Karien, where the War God is the only God, and worshipers of all others must fall to the sword. The Harshini, long thought wiped out, commune with the gods and even have some power (at least of persuasion) over them. The world these people live on seems so real and the events of the novel follow logically.
Fallon does wonderful work with the characters as well, with almost all of them being perfectly three-dimensional. R'Shiel and Tarja are especially good protagonists, with R'Shiel understandably having trouble accepting her parentage, especially considering her upbringing as the daughter of an ambitious Sister. Tarja has been exiled and is brought back at R'Shiel's insistence (though Joyhinia fought it every step of the way). He's a great military leader and an extremely intelligent man. I did find that R'Shiel's attitude during Tarja and her's initial flight from the capital to be a little bit grating and shrill. She seemed just a little too haughty, but she did mellow a bit as the story went on. Jenga, the captain of the Defenders, is also quite well done, considering he doesn't have a major role (at least not in the first book). Joyhinia has him under her thumb because she knows the truth about Jenga's brother and is quite willing to reveal it if Jenga moves against her.
The gods are great characters, too. The goddess of love (I won't name them because some of them travel in disguise and thus naming them would be spoilers) adds complications as she casts a spell on R'Shiel and Tarja that can only make matters worse. The god of thieves is mischievous but can help matters if Brak manipulates him well enough. All of the gods have just a little touch of dimension that makes them stand out, and they are never boring.
Sadly, the only character who doesn't quite work is Joyhinia. Being the main villain of the piece, that's a let-down, but she is just this side of two-dimensional. She's the typical power-hungry woman who won't let anything stand in her way. She's ruthless, willing to torch a whole village to keep a secret safe. She rants and she raves and she really isn't that interesting. If Jenga and his other Defenders weren't so beholden to their honour and their oaths, it would be a wonder that they would obey her at all, as she is quite clearly out for her own power at the expense of the Sisterhood and its Defenders.
Whether it's the lack of a credible villain or perhaps the quality of writing, Medalon didn't grip me like the Second Sons trilogy did. Perhaps that's the fault of the book being Fallon's first, but I didn't have the incredible urge to finish that I did with the other series. Don't get me wrong, the prose is very good and I found the situation interesting. I just didn't think it was as interesting as it could be. The prose isn't quite as polished. Still, for a first book it is quite good and shows flashes of brilliance at times and definitely indicates Fallon's potential. I wonder if perhaps my thoughts on Medalon have been influenced a little by reading her subsequent work first?
Whatever way it is, I can thoroughly recommend Medalon, and I can't wait for the next book to come out.
What prevented a five star rating is that Fallon does at times slip into formula rather than stay true to her characters. At certain points she dumbs down her characters to get through to a certain plot point. On such example is one of the main characters going through the "but I don't want the responsibility of these powers, I just want things to be normal again." which is completely incongruous with an otherwise strong, perceptive and driven character.
One also wonders how the supporting character Brak can be so incompetent. His capacity to lose his charge and completely miss the obvious time and time again is rather amazing for someone with his supposed lineage and history.
The last criticism is that the USA cover is HORRIBLE. It makes the book look like any other generic, yawn inspiring fantasy epic. If I hadn't been in London and seen the UK cover I would never even have picked up the book.
Overall a great book and I was able to overlook the weaker spots, hoping that the rest of the series grows stronger as it matures.
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