Centuries ago, six mages pushed the boundaries of reality because they could until the land could no longer contain their power. Captain Marsan led five thousand from the broken lands that had once been home to found a new home with the aid of the last great mage weapon. Under the protection of the Black Flame, the city of Maransport has flourished and turned its back on magic and mages, turning instead to scholarship and knowledge.
The Black Flame has flickered. More fuel is needed. An expedition must venture into the chaos of the Broken Lands and retrieve the fuel to preserve their home.
Ryan, heir to Maransport, had not expected to be making the journey his great-uncle had decades before. He had not expected to be heir. Command sits uncomfortably upon him and having Scholars coming with them is not helping. Scholars are always correct. That is the mantra that he learned at school. But perhaps some things are best left alone.
Before you read this review you need to know that I am a fan of Tanya Huff. I haven’t read everything from her back catalogue yet but I will because Huff is an author that has never let me down no matter the genre. Urban supernatural? ‘Blood Ties’ has vampires and private investigators. Urban fantasy? ‘The Enchantment Emporium’ has dragons and sorceries in downtown Calgary. Space Opera? ‘Valor’s Choice’ has aliens and space battles and mysterious abandoned high technology. No matter the genre Huff delivers and gives a wonderfully immersive world that has you accepting the extraordinary.
‘Into The Broken Lands’ is no exception. With every word the world is built brick by brick with very little exposition. Some readers might find it a somewhat slow reveal but I found it piqued my curiosity and had me engrossed in what might happen next whenever I put the book aside.
While the premise of the novel centres around Ryan, the anxious heir apparent, there is no one protagonist. The plot shifts between several viewpoints and between time periods, with the previous quest for the fuel equally as important. This switching of point of view has become quite popular and I often find it jarring and often unnecessary. ‘Into The Broken Lands’ meshes these stories and characters into a wonderful picture that brings the world to life and makes me sad that it’s a standalone novel. Not because this story doesn’t end with a nice sense of satisfaction but, as I really found, the world so intriguing. It has so much in common with a traditional fantasy with horses, swords and magic and a small group on a quest to save their people and yet it isn’t. Tropes are few and the introspection is high with the internal character arcs being almost more important than the retrieving of the macguffin.
‘Into The Broken Lands’ has already been put on my Christmas shopping list. Many of Huff’s novels are lighter and this one might be a struggle if you are expecting more of the same. It is a book to point to when people scoff at fantasy as escapist fluff. It questions. What makes a person? Who writes history? Who should decide what is hidden? If you liked N. K. Jemisin’s ‘The Fifth Season’ this is one you should try.
(pub: DAW, 2022. 464 page hardback. price: $28.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-75641-524-2)
check out website: www.dawbooks.com