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Good, but not outstanding
on 20 April 2004
Julian May, famous for science fiction series like The Saga of the Exilesand The Galactic Milieu, starts a new series, The Boreal Moon Tale, withConqueror's Moon. This time May has chosen to write a classic fantasystory, set in a medieval world where magic is real, and mythical creaturescan still be found lurking not far from the human settlements.
Ash from volcanic eruptions has been raining down on the island of HighBlenholme for three years, causing the worst famine in memory, as well asa serious disruption in trade. While some of the rulers in the fourkingdoms struggle to fill their treasuries and feed their subjects, othersare seeing an opportunity to increase their influence. Young DeveronAustrey, born with a wild magical talent, becomes the trusted companion ofprince Conrig of Cathra, a man with bigger dreams than anyone else. Hisgoal is to bring the whole island under his own control.
This is more than a tale of Deveron and Conrig though. True to her styleMay lets us know the minds of Conrig's allies and enemies as well, and yousoon realize that this is a story without knights in shining armour, andwith no sorcerers aspiring to become the next evil overlord. The latteris neatly avoided by a magical system that requires payment in pain foreach item of magic you master. The more powerful object, the more painyou have to endure. I really liked that approach.
With a fairly standard fantasy setup as far as world-building goes, thisbook relies heavily on the characters for enjoyment. May has a talent formaking you sympathize with (or at least understand) the character you arecurrently reading about, which is essential for a story based on politicalintrigue. The plot, centred on a secret military strike, is well paced. There are a few pieces of prophesy adding clues to which direction thestory will take, without making it too obvious how it all will end. Ifound Conqueror's Moon a well written, but not outstanding, book. Isuspect that as time moves on, it will start to blend in with all theother imaginary worlds I'm trying to keep track of.