Solaris. p/b £7.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
When Oskane is witness once again to a political cover up at the expense of innocent lives, he does the only thing possible and sacrifices power and position to become protector of the king’s unwanted half-blood son. Oskane has played court politics well all these years, but this time he did not read the others’ moves fast enough and it has cost him. He may be estranged from the king until the boy comes of age, but with him safe for now he can begin to plot his revenge on those who crossed him.
To all-father Rohaayel’s Brotherhood a child is birthed, but this is a T’En female and that spells disaster for the men. The strict ways of life among the T’En mean that males and females are raised apart to ensure they do not become addicted to the others’ gifts and destroy themselves. Rohaayel is set on a plan that will mean this child does not have to be given away to the Sisterhood, but it will mean bringing the displeasure of all the T’En down on him if he goes through with it.
Sorne has overcome the odds and claimed high esteem amongst the True-men to have the ear of the king himself. Using his visions from the gods he is able to rise in status, but when he sees first hand how deep the hatred for the T’En runs his loyalty begins to waver. Imoshen has lived all her life outside the traditions of her people, but it is not until she grows into her power that she realises how very wrong their lives have been. Now the truth has become clearer will Sorne and Imoshen be able to change things or has hatred run too deep across the kingdoms?
The events in Besieged span decades, following the progress of the two young protagonists and the many allies and antagonists that cross their paths. This really is a sprawling epic and time is handled well for the most part with events jumping forward into the future fairly frequently, particularly in the early part of the book. Occasionally the time shifts seemed slightly too abrupt, characters being propelled into their future without warning, and thus feeling momentarily disorientating, but without these shifts in time the plot would be nowhere near as complex or impressive as it is.
The magic system is unique and adds a great underlying sense of danger throughout the narrative, mostly because the reader is only given a surface-level understanding of how things are and why; as the characters learn and explore, so do we. The empyrean plane is only accessible using gift magic and it takes skill and talent to survive there. Skill and talent which the characters have to varying degrees. The Outcast Chronicles give us a world that is so segregated and so set in following ancient rules and beliefs that it is as frustrating as it is fascinating, and is a great study of loyalty and belief.
Power is a main theme here and within each hierarchy there are those who crave power for their own advancement rather than for the good of all. The conflict and tension caused by their actions is rendered well throughout the book, but there are so many characters with conflicting goals that as a result there is extensive exposition and background information to be delivered, which inevitably slows the pace.
Once the intricacies of the relationships between the different races and genders have been explained sufficiently, however, we are left with a book that becomes addictive and really ups the ante towards the end, building to a conclusion that has set this up to be an expansive and fulfilling trilogy. If you like epic fantasy it does not disappoint.