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Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Second Sight" by Greg Hamerton (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Greg Hamerton Website
Order "Second Sight" HERE
Read A Sample from "Second Sight" (pdf)
Read FBC Review of "The Riddler's Gift"

INTRODUCTION: "Second Sight" is the second Tale of the Lifesong following the author's debut "The Riddler's Gift". While quite a traditional fantasy tale - the destined girl, the magical artifact, the mentor of the title, the nasty and tricky villains, the pseudo-medieval setting - "The Riddler's Gift" enchanted me from the first pages with its beautiful and lyrical style and I followed the adventures of Tabitha Serannon and the assorted cast of characters to the superb and complete ending of the novel's main thread.

However the big picture remained in the background with only hints and snippets given and indeed
"Second Sight" picks up where "The Riddler's Gift" ends and deals with the monumental - the creation and destruction of worlds, the relationship between Order and Chaos or Dark and Light - all embodied in the eons long conflict between Wizards of Order, Sorcerers of Chaos and Gods and Goddeses of Creation and Destruction.

Very high magic and big-words stuff, but despite my general avoidance of such, the beautiful writing and the great characters, especially Tabitha and The Riddler, compelled me to read and greatly enjoy this tale too.

"Second Sight" stands at about 640 pages divided into four "movements" and 44 named chapters. As in "The Riddler's Gift" each chapter starts with a two line quote from the Riddler himself.

"Second Sight"
has essentially five story lines that converge. We see the Wizards of the Gyre who shielded Eyri the last outpost of order and where across the centuries Zarost - the Riddler and one of the eight - tried to engineer or at least discover the powerful wizard/sorcerer that will give the world a chance against the Sorcerer of Chaos. We also find out how this state of affairs evolved and how the big and bad Ametheus emerged and what are his goals.

But the more "down to earth" and intriguing threads are the ones following Tabitha who is haunted by the dreams of imprisoned Goddess Ethea and *needs" to break out of the Eyri and save her, while in two sort of offshoots, jealous Prince Bevn has stolen the Kingsrim which gives the wearer power over every Eyri native - including Tabitha for example - and plans - well he does not really know what, except that he also flees the ordered realm into the outside chaos, while fledgling "gifter" Ashley gets separated from Tabitha in the Oldenworld and has his own strange adventures.

"Second Sight" is high fantasy that goes into realms of power and supernatural from the more mundane setting of The Riddler's Gift. While it touches on the events of the first installment, the novel is pretty much complete on its own and has a definite ending.

ANALYSIS: "Tabitha Serannon can perform miracles of healing, yet people are dying in her hands. A prophecy points a crooked finger beyond Eyri and Tabitha must abandon her followers to rescue the source of her power. Every step takes her farther into the terrors of Oldenworld, but she must liberate the essence of life before it is corrupted by chaos. This is no game: a traitor lurks among the wizards, a ruthless enemy hunts her with whips of wildfire and she could lose her closest friends with one wrong move. On the journey to mastery, whom can she trust? She has only her faith in love and her fading song to guide her."

Why would you want to read the novel described above? It may be that the description which is of a completely traditional high-magic fantasy in a transformed, unnatural land interests you a lot but since I usually avoid a book with this blurb I will give you some other reasons.

First of all the wonderful prose of Greg Hamerton which you can get a taste of in the excerpt linked above as well as in the one linked in The Riddler's Gift review. "Second Sight" flows beautifully page after page and all the thread transitions are done so well that you do not discern any interruption or hit any narrative wall.

The Oldenworld is vividly described both in its scarred physical nature and in the strange inhabitants, while the "outside" narrations - spatial in the Gyre which is located away "into the stars", time wise in Ametheus story which takes us back to how the Eiry and the Oldenworld got to be - mesh very well with the "here and now" tales.

Tabitha grows a lot in the novel, while The Riddler shown in his natural environment is even more impressive than before, though in many ways the star of the novel is the putative villain, the sorcerer Ametheus whose tale is twistier and stranger than I expected. On the other hand Garyll is mostly a pale reflection of the confident sword master from before, and while that is understandable given what had happened, I still kind of regretted it since Garyll the leader was more interesting than Garyll the follower.

The main plot itself is relatively predictable but the strength of the novel does not lie there. The ending is very satisfactory and quite complete, though of course there is enough space for more Tales of the Lifesong. Overall Second Sight (strong A) is as good a traditional high magic fantasy as it gets and I hope the author will continue to use his superb writing style to enchant us with more stories.

Note: In a very kind gesture the author offered a 10% discount on purchasing his book until the end of August 2010 with the promotional code FBCSS0810 during checkout on, while letting me know that the book will be available directly in the USA from soon and of course it is already available - as of Aug 1st - from and other UK outlets as well as in ebook format regardless of location.



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