Fancher's book suffers from its excess mental intrigue. While ordinarily a book uses people's thoughts to help readers become more engaged with its characters, this book tries to move its story along by throwing heaps of semi-relevant thoughts at its readers. Unsurprisingly, this leads to a very slow book with plenty of extraneous writing. Perhaps its most irritating facet lies in the continual mental posing of its three main characters, whose interests consist of mostly petty hatreds and fears that continually get rehashed just when it seems the dynamics of their relationship have moved on to a new stage. Other parts of this book are also pretty awful. When the oldest brother finally has his confrontation with his crazy aunt the verbal exchange between the two comes off as an argument between a couple of 8 year-old kids in the schoolyard. While I had no expectations of this book, somehow it still managed to really disappoint me. Very little about this book is worthy of praise as, added to the failures I have already mentioned, it fails to resolve any of the conflicts which drive the story and has absolutely no sense of closure at all. I give it two stars because it develops an interesting world and has a few moments that are actually engaging, enough that I finished reading the book despite its many, many failings.
I was put on to this book mostly because I am a big fan of C J Cherryh (apparently a good friend of the author) and she has recommended the books pretty heavily. I did actually find some of the atmosphere and dialogue had a familiar flavour to them (no idea which way the influence runs . . .), although Fancher concentrates mostly on the emotional lives of the characters and misses out the pages of politics you often find in Cherryh's books. I enjoyed this one, not enough to rush out and buy the next ones but I intend to some day, especially as this volume seemed mostly concerned with setting up the characters and situations for future books. I found the world interesting but not especially well developed, though this may change. If I have any criticisms it's that I found the intensity of the relationship between the brothers a bit hard to take at times - I enjoyed this but found it a bit hard to sustain disbelief. Not a great novel but lots to like in it.
This book's focus centres on the three Rhomandi brothers Deymorin, Mikhyel, and Nikaenour and how they eventually - by way of a burgeoning psychic awareness of one another and their animosity towards their great aunt Anheliaa's plans for extending and maintaining the city of Rhomatum's influence upon neighbouring satellites of the Ley-web - discover that their suspicions of one another have been ill-founded ( due to a long term communication breakdown ), and that all three working together are a living Ley-node. The bedrock of this narrative is the usage of intense viewpoint to convey the psychological and motivational aspects of the brothers' concerns. Much is made of the Nikaenour character in respect to his own view of Deymorin and Mikhyel, and as a hub by way of which Deymorin and Mikhyel consider each other and Nikaenour, in conjunction with Anheliaa's influence on all of them. But in the end though, Deymorin's misconceptions about Mikhyel are probably the most poignant, as they have been the seed of the brothers' mistrust of one another to greater and lesser extents. As a backdrop to all this is the city of Rhomatum, which was founded by the brothers' ancestor Darius some three hundred years previously. A city born from Darius' vision: 'Today I looked into the rings and saw a new and better world'. And so it was that Darius built a tower upon a leythium-node wherein he set in motion a set of giant rings composed of leythium and silver from which the power of Rhomatum was established: a power that is the source of conflict between the resident ring-master Anheliaa and everyone else. A lot of the interconnections in this book are quite understated by conventional standards, making the wheels-within-wheels elements of the story a little hard to keep track of as the story evolves and unwinds. I found it really had to be read at least twice to get a better impression by way of hindsighted forewarning. Which for a book of this length is saying something, since from my point of view, it takes an interesting and engaging one for me to read once...
Not everything is what it seems in Jane Fancher's Ring of Lightning. The first point of views you experience is that of the oldest and the youngest Rhomandi brothers. Their thoughts give you two colored perceptions of their city and their middle brother, Mikhyel. However, as the story unfolds and you see their world through the eyes of other characters, your perceptions change. You find yourself sympathizing with Mikhyel. I found him becoming my favorite character in the book, followed closely by Dancer, the mysterious protege of Mother. And who is Mother? A creature who has taken an interest in the Rhomandi brothers. This is fantasy as it's meant to be written. No elves, no magic spells or wizards, no dragons. Just a character driven piece with attention to the small things that make you feel this place exists, these people exist. If you like CJ Cherryh, or Siege by Lynn Abbey, you'll like Jane's Ring series. Pick up the first book and you'll be hooked. Oh, and tell Mother I sent you!
Three very different brothers, whose fate is very much intertwined, in a world powered by ley lines and politics reminiscent of C.J.Cherryh and Marion Zimmer Bradley crossed with Lois McMaster Bujold. I came to care very much about each of Fancher's characters, human and nonhuman alike. Plenty of action and adventure as well, making this book such a page-turner that I just couldn't put it down!. --Margaret Adamson Fincannon.