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Requiem (Psalms of Isaak) [Hardcover]

Ken Scholes

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Book Description

8 July 2013 Psalms of Isaak (Book 4)
Ken Scholes's debut novel, Lamentation, was an event in fantasy. Heralded as a mesmerizing debut novel by Publishers Weekly, and a vividly imagined SF-fantasy hybrid set in a distant, postapocalyptic future by Booklist, the series gained many fans. It was followed by Canticle and Antiphon. Now comes the fourth book in The Psalms of Isaak, Requiem. Who is the Crimson Empress, and what does her conquest of the Named Lands really mean? Who holds the keys to the Moon Wizard's Tower? The plots within plots are expanding as the characters seek their way out of the maze of intrigue. The world is expanding as they discover lands beyond their previous carefully controlled knowledge. Hidden truths reveal even deeper truths, and nothing is as it seemed to be.

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Review

A diverse cast of dynamic characters, a tantalizingly labyrinthine mystery, a world full of wonders, and powerful symbolism and imagery power this seamless merging of epic fantasy and science fiction.--Publishers Weekly, starred review, on Antiphon. Not only is Scholes a capable world-builder, he ably handles the tough task of keeping the series momentum going, intensifying the mystery so deftly that even if readers can't foresee where the story's going, it's clear that the author knows exactly what he's doing. Kirkus Reviews,starred review on Canticle --Various

About the Author

KEN SCHOLES is the author of the acclaimed series The Psalms of Isaac, which comprises Lamentation, Canticle, Antiphon, and this new novel. He lives near Portland, Oregon, with his wife, journalist Jen West Scholes, and their three-year-old twin daughters.

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars strong 3 but suffers a bit from bridge book issues 19 Jun 2013
By B. Capossere - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Requiem is the fourth book in Ken Scholes PSALMS OF ISAAK series, which while having a few minor issues throughout has mostly been a fresh mix of fantasy and science fiction, filled with intriguing characters and exploring complex issues involving the intersection of religion, technology, and society. Requiem continues that exploration, though in weaker fashion than the prior three novels.

By now, the plot has grown extremely complicated, so I'm not going to offer up much of a plot recap, which should probably clue you in that this is a series that requires reading the books in order. While earlier books had many of the main characters together or at least paired up, in Requiem, Scholes has chosen to separate them, sending several all the way to the moon (and separating even the ones there).

The Gypsy King, Rudolpho, helplessly outnumbered and outplanned, is forced to collaborate with the Crimson Empire's just-landed invasion force. His wife, Jin Li Tam and his son Jakob have been taken to the Empire's capital city so that Jakob may be betrothed to the Crimson Empress and help fulfill some of their religious prophecies. Her father, Vlad Li Tam, has come into possession of the uber-powerful staff of Y'zir and is on a one-man invasion of his own. Winters has led those of her people still loyal to her out of the Marshes in hopes the Dream, which promises their return home, will come true. Neb, revealed last book to be the son of the Younger God Whym, as well as the prophesied Homeseeker, and Petronus, along with a group of metal men, have flown to the moon and are seeking entry into the Moon Wizard's tower. And two new characters arrive on the scene--a young girl named Marta and a mysterious metal man who has no memory of who or what he was.

As before, Scholes structures his novel via a series of short, shifting POVs. In some of the earlier books, I felt this at times was overly distracting and also diminished the emotional impact of some of the storylines. While I found that true now and then in Requiem, it was much less of an issue, as the chapters were for the vast majority of the time as long as they needed to be, with consistently smooth transitions. The short chapters, its sub-400 page length, and Scholes' smooth prose style make Requiem a quick read.

This despite the healthy cast of characters and a by-now convoluted plot, filled with shifting alliances, betrayals and apparent betrayals, and questions of just who are the good guys and who the bad guys. Scholes' pattern of keeping those questions up in the air--who is working for and with whom and why--has long been one of the better aspects of the series, and Requiem keeps us guessing with regard to several characters, both new and old.

That said, I found Requiem less satisfying than the earlier novels. One reason is that several of the storylines feel a bit stagnant and/or one-tone. Vlad Li Tam, for instance, who has always been a complex character filled with shades, here is reduced to what I'd call a too-simplistic plot line. The staff he carries makes him incredibly powerful, so much so that there is never any tension--when he needs food or water, he makes it. When he needs information, he compels people to speak. When he needs, well, you get the point. His story does have a strong close, but up to that point it isn't all that interesting. The same is true, though to a lesser extent, of Rudolpho and Jin's storylines. Surrounded by their enemies, playing a taut game of appearances, these sections should be incredibly and constantly tension-filled, but are surprisingly and disappointingly placid. The sections on the moon, as with Vlad Tam's sections, suffer a bit from things coming too easily (the sometimes-problem with god-like powers), but more so from things being too abstract and removed. In all these cases, the plot doesn't compel enough and the emotional impact is either non-existent or too muted, save for the ending, where the emotions pack a wallop.

The big exception to this is the plot line dealing with Marta and the mystery metal man, which from the very start is filled with tension, suspense, and emotion. As mentioned, Requiem is a fast, smooth read and it does hold attention enough to keep one going to the end, but it really comes alive when these two are the focus.

Beyond plot and character, Scholes continues to explore complex questions of faith and technology and humanity: how faith can be used to manipulate, the moral implications of powerful technology, questions of means versus ends, questions about what does it mean to be human (growing up and father figures play important roles in this book and the series as a whole), about humanity's propensities for both violence/self-destruction and exploration/creation. These questions go a good way toward making up for some of the novel's plot problems.

Requiem disappoints in comparison to its predecessors, falling into the "bridge book" rut a bit--things happen that move a complicated story forward, but without a lot of impact on the reader. It's by no means a bad book, and it's certainly a necessary one with regard to the series, but I would have liked to care a bit more, as much as I did before, about what happened to these characters.
(review originally appeared at fantasyliterature.com)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spoiler Free: Good Book in a Great Series 3 Dec 2013
By Steve Conn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For the Series: I don't know why this series is not more popular. It is as good as anything i have read in a long time. Honestly, The Psalm of Isaak is such a creative, fresh, and unique series, every fantasy reader should pick it up. Unlike most fantasy novels, it is not the "hero's quest" farm boy from humble beginnings who finds out he has special powers and fights the dark lord. It's about kings, prophets, popes, and remnants of an ancient world who have been swept up in a mysterious plot that will change the course of the known world. There is a fun mix of magic and science that does not seem cliche or overdone. You get the impression that you are living in a real world with a long history, and many secrets.

The author does a really good job of being mysterious and confusing without being frustrating or annoying. Several times in this series you will ask "what is going on here?" But the mystery is carefully crafted and information is revealed at a satisfactory pace. Sometimes in a series you get the idea that the author is being mysterious because HE doesn't really know where it's going either. It's sloppy, haphazard, and your questions get unsatisfactory answers. Not so with Psalm of Isaak. You will enjoy unraveling the layers of plot along with the characters.

For this book: I have to admit that the series gets a little weird for me. As I'm beginning to get answers to some of my questions I am surprised by some of the turns the story has taken. I need to read the last book to form a complete opinion on each installment in the series, because I will need to see how they fit into the bigger picture. My favorite book in the series was Canticle, but just because Requiem wasn't my favorite does not mean it's not very good. I highly recommend it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard Ball as Played by Techno-Mages 16 Jan 2014
By Christina Paige - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Requiem follows Lamentations, Canticle, and Antiphon, comprising a strongly written series with rich, complex world-building and social engineering. It is juicy SF you can sink your incisors into, told from multiple perspectives so that you get to experience directly the diverse, conflicting motivations of characters.
Scholes’ books are a natural choice for readers who like epics with a political flavor. So if you have reread Game of Thrones and the Dune books so many times you have whole chapters memorized and you are casting about for something similarly toothsome, this series should be your next choice.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Psalms of Isaak Series 11 Jun 2014
By Monica - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
LOVE LOVE LOVED these books!! Mr. Scholes, when are you going to write another book!! Your books were recommended by mutual friend and I couldn't put them down!! These books are fantasy, sci-fi with a great storyline and characterts you can completely identiy with! Each word comes to life in the series and I would totally recommend this to anyone who enjoys fantasy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to read! 28 Jun 2014
By Susan Essex - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Rich world, rich characters, rich plot lines. Cannot wait for the final installment. This series entangles in a very captivating plot sci-fi and fantasy lines to come up with something completely unique. Easy read with a melody of its own. From time to time the words flow like poetry lines and it feels more like a ballad than prose. Nice work, Mr. Scholes!
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