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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Key of Stars" by Bruce R. Cordell (Reviewed by David Craddock)


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City of Torment, the second book in Bruce R. Cordell's excellent Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy, ended as all penultimate installments tend to: with the bad guys poised to obliterate life, and the good guys reeling from near-total defeat. In Key of Stars, the final book, readers travel the final stretch on a road that leads to either ruin or salvation, and they do so in the company of characters that Cordell has once again brought to vivid life.

As in Plague of Spells and City of Torment, the characters in Key of Stars are nuanced and realistic. Raidon, Japheth, and the rest of the gang are all present and accounted for, as are a few new faces along with old ones that haven't gotten as much screen time as the main roster. Cordell keeps things interesting by pairing up characters who have not spent much time in each others' company, which allows light to be shed on previously unexplored facets of a character's composition.

It is because the story and characters are so excellent that the change of pace near the middle of the book, which inches forward like gridlocked traffic after speeding along in the beginning, felt so abrupt. Upon closer examination of why the pace so drastically changed, I've determined the source to be Cordell's increased focus on some characters with whom we haven't spent much time in the past. Multiple perspectives are to be expected in fantasy series, which tend to features casts of dozens or even hundreds. But in the third book of a trilogy, readers have spent the bulk of their time following the exploits of certain characters, good and bad, to whom they've become attached.

It's not that the characters in question aren't interesting; it's that I find others to be more interesting because I've spent two books getting to know them. Therefore, this should be considered more of a subjective dislike rather than an objective one that affects the book negatively.

Despite my personal qualm, Key of Stars--the first and third segments in particular--is a cornucopia of battle, intrigue, romance, and character advancement; all the ingredients that make a good fantasy novel. The middle might seem slower than the rest depending on your reception to new and infrequently visited perspectives, but if you're reading Key of Stars, you've likely experienced the first two books and will not be disappointed with the time you've invested in the story.

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