The Summer Palace (The Annals Of The Chosen volume 3) by Lawrence Watt-Evans (book review).

March 2, 2021 | By | Reply More

‘The Summer Palace’ is the third volume in ‘The Annals Of The Chosen’, which began with ‘The Wizard Lord’ and continued in ‘The Ninth Talisman’. In fact, ‘The Summer Palace’ is the second half of the story told in ‘The Ninth Talisman’, which ended on a cliff-hanger.

The cliffs in question are the eastern cliffs that form one border of Barokan, the land ruled by the Wizard Lord. In book one, our hero Sword and the rest of the Chosen did their duty and killed an evil Wizard Lord. The Chosen are the Leader, the Seer, the Beauty, the Thief, the Scholar, the Archer, the Speaker and our hero, the Swordsman. They each have magical abilities granted by a talisman they wear. They must kill or force to resign any Wizard Lord that goes rogue and starts killing innocents or in other ways causing trouble.

So Sword killed the Dark Lord and that unworthy was replaced by another wizard who took the rather unwizardly view that Barokan could do without magic. He gathered an army and had his soldiers kill other wizards. There weren’t many. Then he turned on the Chosen, who might one day threaten him. Sword escaped and is a hunted man as the book begins.

Barokan is unsafe for Sword. The Wizard Lord is very popular with the ordinary folks because he has built roads, canals and bridges, improved trade and made everyone more prosperous. He’s also spread untrue rumours that the Chosen went rogue and tried to kill him. Sword decides his best option is to flee to the Uplands, a vast plateau atop the eastern cliffs where nomadic tribes live by following large herds of ara, a big flightless bird that supplies all their needs. The Uplanders are similar to the buffalo hunting Plains Indians of North America or Tibetans who live off yaks.

In the winter, when the ara go south and the plains are uninhabitable, the Uplanders stay in Barokan in the town of Winterhome, where the Wizard Lord also lives. Sword hopes to find sanctuary with them and then hide out in the summer palace the Wizard Lord built atop the eastern cliffs and kill him the following summer. To do this, he will have to winter in the Uplands, which no one has ever done.

The first half of the book, showing Sword’s life with the Uplanders, is reasonably enjoyable. After that, frankly, it gets boring. A plot that calls for the hero to spend most of the time alone is hard to bring to life. Sword goes over and over the details of his plan and wonders what his mum is doing and worries about the soldiers hunting the other Chosen and so on and on. Then there’s an ending and it’s all finished. Hey-ho.

It’s not a bad read because Sword is still a likeable character and the author has an effortless style that doesn’t strain the brain. On the other hand, it’s not gripping. If you’ve invested time in ‘The Ninth Talisman’, you’re probably inclined to finish the story here, but it won’t leave a large hole in your life if you don’t. The premise of Barokan is sound and the first book was entertaining. The second had good ideas but was incomplete. The third is a letdown, to be honest. Readable enough but not a must-have.

Eamonn Murphy

March 2021

(pub: TOR/Forge, 2008. 316 page hardback. Price: $25.95 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1028-6)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who writes a bit too.

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