Noonshade: Hectic, shallow, entertaining

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review James Barclay Chronicles of the Raven 2. NoonshadeNoonshade by James Barclay

Noonshade is the second book in the CHRONICLES OF THE RAVEN series by British fantasy author James Barclay. At the end of trilogy opener Dawnthief, the legendary group of mercenaries known as the Raven managed to destroy the Wytchlords and save the world of Balaia by casting the powerful Dawnthief spell, but as a side effect of the spell, a magical rift appeared in the sky above Parve.

Very early on in Noonshade, we discover that this rift leads to another dimension, populated by several “broods” of dragons, and that the only thing stopping them from invading and destroying Balaia is the Kaan brood, which has a link with the Balaian dimension and some of its inhabitants. However, the rift is growing, and as soon as its shade is large enough to cover the city of Parve at noon (hence Noonshade), the Kaan brood will no longer be able to protect Balaia from the other dragons and certain destruction.

Meanwhile, the Wesmen are still waging war on the civilized eastern part of the world. Despite having lost their magical powers after the Wytchlords’ destruction, they are continuing to lay siege to the cities and magical colleges. The Raven will have to fight their way through the chaos of warfare to find a way to close the rift and save Balaia.

On the one hand Noonshade is better than its predecessor Dawnthief. The characters have by now at least gained some history, making them more understandable and likable. Especially the shape-changer Thraun gains some actual depth, making him the most fascinating character in Noonshade for me. Also returning are the mages Ilkar, Denser and Erienne, the thief Will, the barbarian Hirad Coldheart and, yes, the Unknown Warrior. The plot once again moves along at a brisk, even hectic pace, rarely pausing in its rush from one battle to the next. The fantasy world James Barclay has created definitely gains a few new dimensions (quite literally). Finally, there are some memorable scenes in this novel, including one very dark one that wouldn’t be out of place in one of Steven Erikson‘s Malazan novels.

On the other hand however, Noonshade is once again little more than a breathless string of action scenes, barely kept together by a coherent plot, and populated by mostly flat characters. By the last 100 pages of the novel, I found myself skimming some of the many battles, because their descriptions were almost interchangeable. I also felt that James Barclay was often trying to set up scenes for maximum shock value by making characters strongly state they would never do something, and then give in and do it anyway a few chapters later. Because of the hectic pacing and general shallowness of the story, the impact is unfortunately not as strong as it could be.

Still, Noonshade is another wild action movie in the shape of a novel, full of adventure, battles and magic. What it lacks in depth, style, and originality, it makes up for in entertainment value and pace. If you enjoyed Dawnthief, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll enjoy Noonshade just as much.

Chronicles of the Raven — (1999-2009) Publisher:  Six men and an elf make up The Raven, swords for hire in the wars that have torn apart the land of Balaia. For years, they have remained loyal only to themselves and their code. But a secret mission has changed that, and drawn them into a new world of politics and ancient mysteries. Now the band has chosen to fight for the Dark College of Magic. They want the location of Dawnthief, a spell to end the world — a spell The Raven intends to cast…

James Barclay Chronicles of the Raven 1. Dawnthief 2. Noonshade 3. Nightchild 4. Elfsorrow 5. Shadowheart 6. Dwmonstorm 7. RavensoulJames Barclay Chronicles of the Raven 1. Dawnthief 2. Noonshade 3. Nightchild 4. Elfsorrow 5. Shadowheart 6. Dwmonstorm 7. RavensoulJames Barclay Chronicles of the Raven 1. Dawnthief 2. Noonshade 3. Nightchild 4. Elfsorrow 5. Shadowheart 6. Dwmonstorm 7. Ravensoul

Legends of the Raven

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STEFAN RAETS (on FanLit's staff August 2009 — February 2012) reads and reviews science fiction and fantasy whenever he isn’t distracted by less important things like eating and sleeping. In February 2012, he retired from FanLit to focus on his blog Far Beyond Reality.

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