To the best of my knowledge, this was my first foray into Australian fantasy. And for the most part, it was an enjoyable journey. The land of Achar is facing a supernatural invasion, and Axis, the BattleAxe of the realm, sets out to fight the incursion. But Axis’s history is not what he has been taught his whole life to believe, and there is more to him than he thinks. As he slowly uncovers his past and the powers latent within him, he is joined by two priests, a pig herder, a white cat, and a lovely young woman named Faraday, who just so happens to be engaged to Axis’s greatest enemy; his half-brother, Borneheld. Layer by layer, the Prophecy of the Destroyer is revealed, and Axis’s life will never be the same.
It didn’t take me long to warm up to Axis, because I have a thing for surly guys who are actually really great people deep down. Faraday, on the other hand, took a while for me to embrace. She seemed in turns both too whiny and too accepting of any powers that manifested through her. But grow on me she did! My favorite minor characters were Azhure, a human who had lived through hell but was stronger for it; and StarDrifter and FreeFall, Icarii royalty who were absolutely gorgeous with their incredible wings.
The Icarii, a winged race, and the Avar, a race of forest dwellers, were interesting additions to Douglass’s world. They had been slaughtered by humans (Acharites) in the distant past, and the humans had deforested as much of the land as possible. In fact, the religion of the land was the Way of the Plough, and it portrayed trees and forests as almost demonic. The Seneschal, or the ruling religious body, were truly awful. The emphasis on deforestation (and the implied evil of the action) reminded me of Ferngully. The true power of this planet was not found in Artor and his way of the Plough, but in the Mother, a nature deity whose powers manifested themselves through trees and lakes. The nature religion of the Avar, Icarii, and those Acharites who were converted reminded me vaguely of Wicca.
The story was interesting, and the setting and characters were interesting. My main problem with the book was the writing itself. One of my biggest pet peeves is the repetition of names in dialogue, and Douglass fell into that. They know who they are; you don’t have to keep reminding them that you know their name! I got bogged down a bit at times, as well, by an inability to find a character’s actions believable (I’m looking at you, Borneheld, you beast); by either overabundance or lack of description, depending on the chapter; or by a constant reiteration of information that had been conveyed multiple times. But beyond that, it was just a fun look back at the fantasy genre of 20 years ago. I can absolutely see the nostalgic value of the books if they were one of your first forays into fantasy, as they were for my lovely friend Sarah. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series, it will just be at some point in the distant future.
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