Sean Russell adds interesting ideas to the Medievalising fantasy. The Isle of Battle
, second volume of his Swan's War trilogy, has a handy amount of night-time treachery, feats of archery, sorcery and pitched cavalry battles. It has interesting thoughts about the nature of identity--to save her life, noblewoman Elise has allowed herself to be possessed by the long-dead sorceress Sianon and it is not clear, in either direction, who got the better of the deal. Similarly, Russell plays games with honour--is Dease, who has changed his loyalties, more, or less, honourable than his cousin Samul, who pursues them into dishonour and treachery?
These books take place in debatable land--centuries earlier a sorcerer twisted the relationship in time and space between locations along a river valley and its tributaries--and the moral landscape in which the characters get bogged down is equally perverse and disjointed. He brings a compassion to relationships--that between the blind minstrel King Carral, for example, and the hideously scarred Llyn--that never becomes quite saccharine. As its predecessor, The One Kingdom,The Isle of Battlekeeps us caring about the destinies of a large cast of characters and weighs courage against wisdom, loyalty against righteousness in an intelligent and morally complex narrative. --Roz Kaveney
** 'A master of intelligent fantasy - subtle, well-crafted and gripping.' STEPHEN DONALDSON ** 'Magic and mystery blend in abundance with an intricate cast of characters. An engrossing read.' ROBIN HOBB ** 'A perfectly plotted, beautifully written fantasy' PUBLISHERS WEEKLY "Fresh, exciting and thoroughly compelling" ENIGMA