When The Assassin’s Edge brought the story of Livak and Ryshad to an inexorably logical conclusion, the question wasn’t so much ‘what do I do now?’ as ‘what do I do first?’ Intriguing cultures and peoples sketched all across my map as background to the Tales were just waiting to be explored.
How is the Kellarin colony going to fare in years to come? Well, while that’s a fascinating question I don’t feel inclined to tackle it just at present. What else might occupy me in the meantime? Getting entangled in the Lescari Civil Wars? Heading into the uplands of the Mountain Men? Chasing legends of the Eldritch Kin across the plains of Dalasor? Going west into the ancient feudal kingdom of Solura? I’ve got ideas that I’d like to pursue in all these areas but again, not just at the moment.
I returned to the Aldabreshin Archipelago, first seen in The Swordsman’s Oath. This is a society absolutely opposed to magic, in a world where magic undeniably exists. Rulers have absolute power, all trade is barter and money is unknown. An individual’s life is governed far more by their place in society at birth than by their individual qualities. Though individual qualities will influence whether or not a man or woman can hold the place they were born to, high or low.
Compared to The Tales of Einarinn, The Aldabreshin Compass sequence draws far more of an on-going arc with the overall story and for the individuals within it. Kheda, the central character, travels a long way from the security of his life as a powerful warlord, surrounded by wives and children. Faced with fighting magic, where wizardry is a capital crime, he is forced to compromise his beliefs to save his people. As a consequence he comes to question those fundamental beliefs and all that rests upon them, for himself and for his people. His travels, seeking to save his home, take him far away, making dangerous alliances with unexpected companions, at the same time, finding unforeseen friendship and even love. The final turn of fate brings him home again, to face the world and the people he knew, friends and enemies alike, in the light of his new discoveries, at the end of a voyage of self-discovery.
I had already established that the Archipelagans lived their lives guided by omens and the reading of portents in the stars and the world around them. In writing this series, the full complexity of the heavenly and earthly portents has developed, adding a richness to the world that I could not have imagined at the outset.
This series stands alone, in that you don’t have to have read The Tales of Einarinn to understand it. That said, there is some added interest for readers The Tales as a few lesser characters return in some unexpected roles.