It’s the end of an era: The Age of Discovery is finally coming to an end. It’s time to set out to explore The New World, by Michael A. Stackpole.
Time is running out. Nalenyr is besieged on all sides by those who would save the fabled land—and those who would enslave it. Soon the realm will be ravaged by the scourge of magical warfare—overrun by terrifying forces created by an ancient enemy, and soaked in the blood of champions and gods. It is the moment of final conflict, and the grandchildren of the Royal Cartographer are at the center of the climactic struggle.
Keles Anturasi will race across the world, fleeing assassins, seeking control over powers he can barely understand. His brother, Jorim, having ascended to godhood, now finds himself pitted against an elder god—the very god who once created the entire pantheon and now seeks its destruction. And their sister, Nirati, embarks on a treacherous crusade with a dead hero to wage war on hell itself!
As the final battle lines are drawn, they will gather the land’s newly awakened defenders of the ancient past. But can this small band of champions, mystics, and magicians stand against an evil that threatens to sweep reality itself into an unending dark age of nightmare and oblivion?
And so at last we come to the cataclysmic final battles to determine the fate of the world. I have to say, one of my favorite aspects of this book was getting to see all the wild monsters and mechanical contraptions which the sides pitted against one another.
On the negative side, I never really felt that the plot regarding the gods tied into everything happening in the mortal world. It’s said a few times that Nessagafel was somehow responsible for empowering Qiro and Nelesquin, because he needed to create upheaval in the mortal world in order to overthrow the heavenly order, but it never really comes across in the narrative. For instance, Keles has powers equivalent to Qiro’s without any empowering from Nessagafel; and the plan for Grija to steal some of Wentiko’s divine essence and use it to unlock Nessagafel’s prison doesn’t seem like it requires any mortal intervention. It certainly wasn’t like Nelesquin was taking orders from Nessagafel or anything; he was entirely focused on his own conquest, and didn’t even seem aware that Nessagafel existed.
The god suplot does have one major benefit, though: it brings Nirati back into focus. After spending the previous two books just hanging around and doing nothing, she finally gets a chance to become proactive, seize the initiative, and team up with Prince Pyrust and a menagerie of fantasy creatures to invade the Nine Hells. Honestly, I really wish I could have seen more of that. How come we saw so many scenes of Jorim fighting his way up through the Hells but none of Nirati’s forces fighting their way down? I bet she and Pyrust would have made a great buddy cop odd-couple. Right up to the very end, she was criminally shortchanged when it comes to screentime. Good on her on the whole attaining apotheosis thing, though. Just the fact that she didn’t get horribly murdered like in the first book or have to be horribly re-murdered like Grija recommended in the second book places this one on a tier above the others.
On the mortal character side, I thought Jorim and Keles’s endings were a bit trite. Seen it done too many times before in other works, I guess. I loved the Kaerinus reveal, though. Really, I should have known that someone who killed Junel couldn’t be all that bad.
Finally, since this is the last book of the trilogy, here are some stray thoughts and observations that I’d like to fit in before the close:
* The first book is titled A Secret Atlas, but Keles doesn’t create his Secret Atlas until the third book, The New World. The New World of Anturasixan, on the other hand, is created by Qiro at the end of A Secret Atlas. Did the books get their titles switched?
* I never really quite got Qiro as an antagonist. Everyone always seems to jump to assuming the worst of him. For instance, everyone up to and including Prince Cyron believe that he sent his son Ryn on an impossible mission hoping that he’d die, and that Keles mission to Ixyll is likewise a thinly-veiled excuse to get rid of him. Even Keles believes that the Eyeless Ones which Qiro sends to Felarati are intended to kill him rather than rescue him. Yet, whenever we see scenes between Qiro and Nirati, it seems that he really is supportive of his sons and really does want and expect them to succeed. The New World even confirms that Ryn’s original expedition was in no way intended as a suicide mission either. So I was never really rooting against him the way I was against Nelesquin.
* In the first book, there’s a scene where Keles and his group come across a floating sphere that focuses light into a death ray. The logic of the scene, however, really doesn’t hold up to deeper thought. Keles is able to evade the death ray by sticking to the shadows. But shadows don’t work that way: if you’re standing in the sunlight with a mirror, you can use it to reflect light even into areas that are in shadow. Also, the artificer surmises that the sphere is able to focus starlight to use its death ray even at night. Magnifying glasses really don’t work that way: see xkcd’s explanation of why no size of magnifying glass would be sufficient to form a night-time death-ray. I know, I know, it’s magic; that’s why I didn’t bring it up in my review of that book. But the book didn’t say that the sphere used magic to create its death ray, it had the characters explain it with incorrect science; and I just want it stated for the record that it bugged me.
Final Rating: 4/5