Peril’s Gate: Unforgettable!

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Janny Wurts Peril's GatePeril’s Gate by Janny Wurts

Peril’s Gate picks up right where Grand Conspiracy left off: Arithon is once again on the run, pursued by an Alliance of Light army led by its Lord Commander, Sulfin Evend, and his half-brother Lysaer. The Koriani enchantresses are also still trying to capture Arithon, with Elaira forced to walk a precarious line between betraying her order and helping her beloved. In Arithon’s desperate bid to stay ahead and stay alive, he receives help from Earl Jieret’s war band, an elite force but one surely not strong enough to prevail against the vast forces of the Alliance of Light. The Fellowship of Seven is unable to lend much assistance, as they are scrambling to keep Athera from falling apart… but help may still reach Arithon from an unexpected — and maybe unwelcome — direction…

Parts of Peril’s Gate have the same level of suspense as the second half of To Ride Hell’s Chasm, which is one of my favorite standalone fantasies. In one sense, this book is one big chase scene similar to the end of Hell’s Chasm, but because these characters and this world have by now, after five previous novels in the WARS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW series, acquired so much depth and so many layers, the wild chase in Peril’s Gate has much more impact than you’d expect and may just be the most dramatic chase scene I’ve ever encountered in any medium.

Still, while the chase takes center stage, there are several sub-chapters offering glimpses of other events taking place on Athera, so the story continues to deepen even as you’re pulled along in the whirlwind of Arithon’s desperation. Most significantly, Janny Wurts describes the Fellowship’s desperate efforts to protect the planet after Morriel’s misguided actions at the end of Grand Conspiracy, but you’ll also read about the actions of Prince Kevor, Dakar and Fionn Areth, the machinations of the Koriani enchantresses, and several others.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe final quarter of the book contains one of the most grueling scenes in the series so far, as Arithon is forced to relive the most traumatizing events in his past, this time experiencing them from more than just his own perspective. Janny Wurts doesn’t pull any punches describing this truly harrowing experience, which at times is so intense it may give readers a visceral reaction. At the same time, this unforgettable finale shows Arithon growing and transcending his suffering in an almost mystical way, giving Peril’s Gate a spiritual dimension that’s quite unlike anything I’ve encountered in fantasy before.

There are other chapters and scenes in this book that are simply unforgettable, making Peril’s Gate one of the strongest installments in the series so far. You’ll find true heroism and heartbreaking sacrifice in the chapters focusing on the Companions as they try to protect their liege Arithon. You’ll also learn much more about Athera and its history. Finally, even though you won’t find an “Ars Arcanum” section at the back of these books, there are several highly intricate magic systems displayed in these novels, and Peril’s Gate begins to show their differences as well the real depth behind them for the first time.

While the first two novels in the Alliance of Light arc of this series contained a bit more set-up, all the pieces are now firmly in place in Peril’s Gate, resulting in a more rewarding novel that doesn’t let up in pace or intensity until you’ve turned the final page. Not only is this one of the strongest books in the series so far, it’s also one of the most memorable fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Highly recommended.

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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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