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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2002
Having finished Sean Russell's first book I couldn't wait for The Isle of Battle to arrive on the shelf, and despite having to buy the hardback it was well worth every penny! This writer is creating a fantasy land which is destined to be a classic. The landscape through which the reader travels is becoming richer and more rounded, with numerous characters and plot lines threaded together in this engrossing story. His narrative style is easy to read and not over blown like many fantasy writers, and using a simple and clear style he has created a world firmly planted in a believable reality, whose's characters are surprised to find is emmeshed in a magic and tortured history that draws them, and you the reader, irressitably on.
New characters serve to enrich and deepen the plot which is totally absorbing. As the plot lines and characters lives develop, Russell doesn't keep you waiting through inumerable chapters to find out how they are all developing,but interweaves them together keeping you in constant touch with all the threads of the story as it twists and turns. He also keeps you on your toes as he is not precious about despatching well established characters, and you are never quite sure what is going to happen next. Only one problem- it's at least a year for the next book!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2002
Sean Russell writes very very well. The story flows like the great river at the heart of the book and the characters, plot and pace are controlled with a light yet firm grip that makes all of his books a pleasure to read. It has been nearly a year since I read the one kingdom but the gap seems irrelevant as within a dozen pages I was again hooked!
Sean Russell is set apart from a lot of other writers in the genre is that he is, at heart, a storyteller. This ability to carry the reader along the current of the narrative makes his books throughly enjoyable reads.
I heartedly recommend his other books, particularly the Darwinian duologies for those seeking another fix until the final installment of this engaging story.
A first rate read!
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on 30 March 2011
This is the second book in the Swans' War trilogy (after The One Kingdom and before The Shadow Road).

After the Renné costume ball and the disastrous attempt at overcoming Hafydd, Alaan is seriously wounded and flees to the river Wynnd, finally ending up in the gloomy Stillwater marshland.

In his tracks are Haffyd and his men-at-arms, accompanied by Prince Michael secretly spying on him, and
Elise Wills, soon joined by Baore, Tam, Fynnol, Cynddl and Pwyll, champion of the Westbrook Fair tournament.

After their cousin Toren's failed assassination, Samul and Beldor Renné are forced to flee. Toren, Dease, and later the Knight of the Vow Gilbert A'brgail, follow.

Meanwhile at Castle Renné, Lord Carral Wills meets Lady Beatrice and asks for the Isle of Battle to be returned to him in exchange for a peace treaty. There he also meets Llyn, and the reclusive girl with the burned face finally lowers her barriers in the blind man's presence.

But at the same time the Prince of Innes and Menwyn Wills, taking advantage of Hafydd's absence, decide to overrun Isle of Battle. The Renné and their new ally Lord Carral must go to war.

In this volume, numerous groups of characters alternately converge, forging new alliances, and diverge, like meandering arms of a river. Aside from Lord Carral's branch and its tributaries, it seemed to me that most of the book was spend wading waist-deep in the murky swamp of the Stillwater, squinting through thick fog, following the various groups of protagonists chasing each other, trying to catch Alaan before it's too late... leaving me virtually sodden.
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The Isle of Battle starts off directly after the hectic events of The One Kingdom (9/10) , and it starts off fast! Sean Russell provides a kind of synopsis to the previous events -- very useful, as throughout the book, no reprieve is given to the reader, with Russell constantly moving from scene to scene with an almost fierce abandon.

The story in The Isle of Battle is more developed, as is to be expected, and a sense of pettiness, almost, is established at the lesser events -- it becomes very clear that much more is at stake that the honour or ancient enmity of two Houses, as mighty powers rage for control of their land.

As for characterisation, I really liked the importance Lord Carral was given in this book, and I felt he developed well, particularly after suffering the news of what he thought was his daughter's death. Unknown -- at least, for a little while -- to everyone, is that his daughter still lives and has struck a bargain with one of the children of Wyrr ...

...And that's not good.

The Stillwater is one of my favourite locations for a show-down in any book I've read. On one of the "hidden roads" is where it lurks, and a lot of care has gone into making the Stillwater a vivid and memorable landscape. Alaan didn't spend much time traveling this time -- trapped as he was in marsh-type locale with the most powerful sorcerers trying to track him down and kill him. Also not good, especially after the injuries he received at the end of The One Kingdom...

The book manages to avoid the sluggish-ness of some second volumes in trilogies, and even without the inevitable show-down included, there are still several other great scenes towards the end, too -- I mentioned in my review of The One Kingdom that I felt Death and his minions would be playing a more corporeal part in this series ... and while I was right, it wasn't quite the way I expected. How Russell explored the history of Death, and his past, was fascinating.

The Isle of Battle has something of a cliffhanger ending which might disappointed some people, but it's a good read and another solid piece of work from Sean Russell. I continue to be impressed with his work. And nice artwork, too ;) 8.5/10.
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on 30 October 2012
For the weeks that I read these books, I lived in the world of its characters. I have searched Amazon regularly for more of the same author's works. The story was well written, the characters' relationships psychologically sound. I enjoyed the warm friendships, the trials and tribulations faced by the young travelers the their coming of age stories were superb. Highly recommended reading for anyone who wants to enjoy another world for a few hours, and make some very memorable friends :)
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2003
The Isle of Battle is book two of Sean Russells' 'Swans War' Saga. It is a continuation to 'The One Kingdom' and so obviously isn't a book to read 'stand-alone'.
This book takes the characters from the first book and weaves them even more deeply into the world in which they inhabit. After their initial journey from book one, the heroes find themselves travelling through a hidden swamp called 'The Stillwater', (for reasons I won't spoil here) and that is where the majority of the book takes place, while the other chapters of the book are spent going deeper into the political issues regarding the eternally fueding Renné and Wills families, but both stories begin to intertwine slowly.
Russells' style is wonderful at slowly revealing more about the characters and story bit by bit throughout the book, while constantly leaving the reader with more questions about them and more reasons to keep reading. You really can't put it down.
New characters are also introduced, leaving the book with an impressive cast, but still the author succeeds in developing each character fully as an individual with their own thougts, feelings, and personalities, all of which integrate seamlessly with the storyline.
The setting itself isn't your typical fantasy setting either, it's much more subtle. Dragons and other such clichéd fantasy concepts don't exist in this world, the sorcerers in the Swans War books have to take time over their spells, and they are legendary beings rather than something every village has at hand. This makes the book a very refreshing read, the plot being subtly and intelligently crafted, though all the political intrigues going on can get slightly confusing at times.
Overall though, this is a great book just like its predecessor, and those who liked the first would be doing themselves an injustice to miss this one. Be warned though, as the story doesn't end here, and you will definately be left wanting more!
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I really struggled to finidh this book, despite quite enjoying the one kingdom. It felt a labour to read it rather than a pleasure. I cannot say precisely why either, it lacked spark I suppose. Now don't get me wrong it is ok and worth reading if you enjoyed the first.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2003
If you are a fantasy fan who has read their Eddings, Feist, Tolkien, Goodkind etc 20 times and are desparing of finding something new then this could be what you are looking for.
Isle Of Battle is not on the scale of the epics mentioned above but has an interesting storyline, good characters and enough unpredictability to keep you guessing and waiting for the next installment. Whilst there is not the level of action or magic as in many others in the genre, there is certainly enough to keep the pages turning and the plot and writing are of a high enough quality not to need constant battles to captivate you.
This is an entertaining, solid book that looks like it will develop into a very worthwhile series and keep readers guessing throughout. I would rate it on a similar level with the Robin Hobb novels and certainly recommend a purchase.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2003
This book is so great and gripping that I can't even do it justice. If you have read The One Kingdom you will know exactly what I mean. It is just awesome and I am DESPERATE for the third book to be released. As usual the plot is twisty and the characters have many different dimensions to them. You really need to read and then re-read this book to fully appreciate all the little twists and hints that are in there.
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2004
You're driving down the road, heading into some of the most beautiful scenery you've ever seen. It's fall, and the trees are gloriously orange, brown, and gold, the colours vibrantly hitting your eyes and washing over them. You think to yourself, "I could travel through here forever and it never would get old." Then, you hit the state line, but that's ok. The author of such beauty doesn't need to worry about arbitrary boundaries. He will continue to produce this breathtaking sight despite that. And sure enough, as you keep going down the road, the trees are the same, the mountains in the distance are the same, and you are content. Then, you start to notice something strange. The trees are cardboard cut-outs. The beautiful prairies surrounding you and leading up to the distant mountains look pleasant, but are really mud-filled and don't bear up to closer examination. As you drive along, you notice that this is seeming more incredibly fake with each passing mile, and all of the cut-outs are the same. Before, each tree was its own creation, but now it's not even a reasonable facsimile.
Those are my feelings in a nutshell about The Isle of Battle, by Sean Russell. It's the second book in the Swans War trilogy. The first book is beautiful, full of wonderful metaphors about stories and how we create them. The second book, however, loses almost all of the magic of the first, abandoning the metaphor except for a few token references and concentrating on a war between ancient beings who have come back as avatars, inhabiting people in the present to continue their battle. This book starts right where the previous one left off, and I was enthralled. I even commented as such. But then, everything started feeling the same, Russell started using other characters that I didn't care about, and most of the main characters are stuck in one locale for almost the entire book. It started getting tedious, and the story metaphor that I so enjoyed seemed to have disappeared. What could have happened to cause such drastic changes? What's so different?
The more I read of this book, the more I missed the characters I had grown to love in the first book. It's not that Russell does a bad job of characterization. He doesn't change the characters without them learning something or being changed by events. However, what he does is uses the surface of the characters that he had made so rich, making them part of a plot that doesn't really involve them, and doesn't make them grow. They are fairly stagnant in The Isle of Battle, and Russell concentrates on this ancient war. He doesn't neglect the situation between the Renné and the Wills, however. They still go to war over the Isle of Battle, and there is a battle scene or two. Lord Carral, Elise's father, is fairly well-characterized, as a blind man who has forsaken his duty to his family for too long, and is trying to make amends however he can. He had voluntarily relinquished the leadership of his family to his corrupt brother, and now his daughter is dead (he doesn't know she survives). He is forced to make some hard choices and do some things he has never done. He is one of the few characters who I actually liked more in the second book.
Most of the action between the characters we know takes place in a stagnant swamp, with constant descriptions of standing water, fog, beasts, and character wandering fill the text. A lot of the time is spent despairing that they will get Alaan out in time, as they must get him to the river Wynnd to save him, and he's the only person who can get them out of this land. More seemingly immortal characters show up, some interesting and some not, who have been involved with this war between the siblings for generations. These sequences became repetitive very quickly, and the oppressive atmosphere that Russell describes becomes the mood of the reader as well. That's not a good thing when an author is trying to capture his readers and make them wonder what happens next. I got to the point that I didn't care.
It's too bad that Russell abandons his story motif, because it really made the first book interesting. Lip service is given to it, as Cynddl repeatedly talks about the land they're trapped in, and how "so many people's stories have ended here." It's too little, however, and what there is of it also becomes quite repetitive as well. In fact, that's the main problem of this book: repetition. You start to feel like you've read the entire thing before, just a few pages ago. The plot is so obvious (Hafydd is going to let them rescue Alaan and then follow them out so he doesn't get trapped there as well), that even the characters constantly remark on it.
There are two things that make this even remotely worth reading. First, it's a continuation of what could be an interesting story, and there is hope that he can make the third book more interesting (though I haven't heard of a publication date, so who knows how long you'll have to wait). Secondly, Russell still has a way with prose. Even as he's battering you with the dreariness of the swamp, he's describing it so well that you feel like you're there. His prose is a joy to read, it's just too bad that he had to wreck the story that went along with it.
Buy this one in paperback or get it from the library. Read it to continue the story, but that's it. What a disappointment.
David Roy
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