The Isle Of Battle: Book Two in the Swans' War Trilogy Hardcover – 5 Sep 2002
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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 perfectly plotted, beautifully written fantasy (- Publisher's Weekly)
A master of intelligent fantasy - subtle, well-crafted and gripping. (STEPHEN Donaldson)
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 perver)
Roz Kaveney, AMAZON.CO.UK
Top customer reviews
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!!
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!
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.
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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