Written by Robert E. Vardeman
Published by Harper Prism, 1996
First things first: this feels like a very dense book! It has 50 pages more than the other Harper Prism novels, and it really uses all of them! To give you an idea: last week we looked at And Peace Shall Sleep, which had 14 chapters. Dark Legacy has 52, none of them feeling like padding. I quite like that. This is the last Harper Prism novel (Still two anthologies to go before we get to the Acclaim comics though), but the line gets to go out on a high.
At the same time though, the book also deals with Maeveen O'Donagh, a soldier who protects Vervamon the Elder, a scholar who wanders Terisiare to write about its history, cultures and geography. They get tasked by lord Peemel of Iwset (who has a real funny name to Dutch readers) to find the Sigil of Iwset, the missing seal of his office. This quest, which is made more difficult by several members of both the Inquisition and various other factions in Iwset infiltrating their party, eventually brings them the Urhalaan valley. Turns out Yunnie has the Sigil, since he is the bastard son of the fourth wife of lord Peemel (*pffft*) and Vervamon! Maeveen's group helps defeat Sacumon and end the war, though at the cost of much blood on both sides. (The "stone idol Tiyint" mentioned on the back of the book is not actually Yunnie's, it's a giant statue of the god of the minotaurs that they animate to kill elves, but later lose control over.)
|And even Vervamon doesn't get a happy ending in the long run...|
Characterization can be a bit hamfisted at times. Peemel's (*hihihi*) dwarven advisor is jumping up and down with rage in virtually ever scene he is in, Vervamon sometimes comes across as a complete idiot jelling indignantly at people who could easily have him killed. The relationship between Yunnie and his minotaur adoptive brother Mytaru is not developed very well. They are said to be blood brothers, but their closeness never comes across. Mytaru never takes the time to listen to Yunnie, dismissing his claims outright. Stuff like this makes some characters feel very flat.
Oddly enough, it's really only some of them though. Others get nice little personality touches. Yunnie shivers whenever the minotaurs say the name of the Mist Moon out loud, since that was taboo for the humans he lived among before. Isak casually mentions wanting another Serra Angel feather, cause it makes his hat "even jauntier". Those are the little things that make characters come alive. As such, the hamfistedness elsewhere just seems to be the result of a lack of space. Even with the 50 extra pages Robert E. Vardeman tries to cram in a whole lot plotlines, each going through various twists and turns. To do that he has to paint certain characters and relationships with broad strokes some times. While that is a shame, it didn't ruin the book for me. The scope of the story and the continuity references more than made up for it. I applaud it's ambition actually. The various interconnecting plots may not be as sprawling as in A Song of Ice and Fire, but hey, at least this story has an ending! So in conclusion: this is an ambitious book, sometimes a bit rushed, but still very enjoyable. Maybe more so for hardcore storyline fans than for other readers though.
|Also, Coal Golem has awesome art, but a very meh card, so it was nice to see them kicking ass for once.|
Speaking of the manipulators... the Niroso are creatures made of living, molten rock, who can pass through the earth as if it was water. Vervamon theorizes they may have been created recently in the "poisoned land of Lat-Nam", thanks to the magical fall-out from when the Brothers destroyed the College. A nice continuity reference to what we saw of Lat-Nam in Final Sacrifice, though unfortunately later sources have made that a contentious piece of continuity. One more entry for the list of things about Lat-Nam we'll have to resolve when I finally get to the Ice Age cycle!
I've already mentioned the reference to Lat-Nam's state. Well, the story gets even more complicated here... While searching for the Sigil of Iwset Maeveen and her crew end up in the City of Shadows, an abandoned city made of volcanic glass that gives everyone the creeps. When they sleep in it Maeveen gets visions of the future, while the other soldiers get random nightmares. Only Vervamon sleeps soundly, as in his dreams all the scholars on the continent applaud his intelligence. There is never an explanation for what the place actually is. Which is unfortunate, since The Gathering Dark will later state that The City of Shadows is simply the name the College of Lat-Nam assumed during the Dark Age, before switching to School of the Unseen in Ice Age.
"Peemel" is phonetically the same as "Piemel", one of the many Dutch words for penis.
Yes I'm twelve sometimes. Sue me.