Banewreaker: Beautiful but remote

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJacqueline Carey The Sundering BanewreakerBanewreaker by Jacqueline Carey

They say there are two sides to every story. In Banewreaker, the first book in Jacqueline Carey’s THE SUNDERING duology, we hear the story of the sundering of the world from the perspective of the dark side.

Satoris is one of the shapers of the world, seven sibling gods who crafted the creatures of the world and gave them their various gifts. When Satoris was too generous with the gifts he bestowed upon humans, his siblings attacked him and started a war that sundered the world. The humans, with their dearth of understanding, blame Satoris for their plight. Thus, for centuries, he has lived in isolation in his castle called Darkhaven with some servants, including a few men — his generals — whom he has given the gift of immortality.

One of these generals is Tanaros Blacksword, a man who still broods over a betrayal he suffered centuries ago. Satoris and Tanaros’s isolation ends when they notice signs that suggest the prophesied imminent end of Satoris and Darkhaven. They must go out into the world to try to prevent the prophecy from coming true. Meanwhile, others, including humans, are actively working to thwart Satoris and his allies.

There is a lot to like about Banewreaker. It’s a beautifully told myth that, as far as characters and plot goes, is heavily influenced by Tolkien. There are dwarves, elves, dragons, creepy spider-like creatures, beautiful sorceresses, sieges, tunnels, and quests involving powerful objects. In terms of setting and style, it reminds me of Tanith Lee’s TALES FROM THE FLAT EARTH. It’s dark, grand, and the characters feel distant. Unlike Tolkien, there is not a clear line between the “good” and “evil” characters and it’s not easy to assess the morality of some of the situations they get into.The Sundering (2 Book Series) Kindle Edition by Jacqueline Carey

I loved Jacqueline Carey’s KUSHIEL novels and it was interesting to experience such different themes and style from her. But despite my appreciation for what Carey has done here, I can’t say that I loved Banewreaker. The remoteness of the characters, due to their lack of humanity and Carey’s choice of a formal and repetitive writing style, is off-putting. It’s hard to care what happens to any of them. Even Tanaros who, I think, we are supposed to feel for, is hard to connect with. I didn’t believe that he would still be brooding over events that happened so long ago and I got tired of listening to him sulking about it. The intimacy of characterization in the KUSHIEL novels, especially of Phèdre and Joscelin (one of my favorite characters in fantasy fiction) is completely missing in Banewreaker and that’s a stylistic choice that didn’t work for me. I’d say that Banewreaker is a beautiful work of literature, but not a very enjoyable one.

Tantor Audio’s version of Banewreaker was released last month. It’s 19.5 hours long and nicely narrated by Antony Ferguson who has a lovely voice full of the kind of gravity needed for such an epic tale. If you’d like to read Banewreaker, I recommend this edition. The audio version of the sequel, Godslayer, will be out next month.

Published in 2004 in print, in 2017 in audio. Once, the Seven Shapers dwelled in accord. First-born among them was Haomane, Lord-of-Thought and with his brother and sister gods, the Seven drew upon of the power of the Souma, claimed a race of beings for their own and began shaping the world to their will. But Haomane saw the ways of this new world and was displeased. For in his younger brother Satoris, once called the Sower, Haomane thought too prideful and in his gift, the quickening of the flesh too freely to the races…and to that of Man in particular. Haomane asked Satoris to withdraw his Gift from Men but he refused. And so began the Shapers’ War. Eons have passed. The war that ensued sundered the very world. Haomane and his siblings lay to one end of a vast ocean unable to touch their creations, Satoris and the races of the world on the other. Satoris has been broken and left adrift among the peoples of the world and is reviled, with most of the races believing that it was he alone who caused the rift and depriving them of the balm of the Seven. He sits in Darkhaven, controlling his own dominion-seeking not victory but neither vengeance.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. “I got tired of hearing him sulk over it.” Spoken like a mom, Kat! :)

    It sounds like something rather grand and formal that would be more admirable than lovable, but it is interesting to see a favorite writer make an attempt at a different style. And I always like “the other side of the story” trope.

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