by Dawn Cook
Review by Sam Lubell
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0441012280
Date: 04 December, 2004 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
There are some advantages to series books. They provide the writer with a bigger canvas that allows a bigger story, a deeper background, and, at least sometimes, more characterization. But, if the writer is not careful, later volumes can be incomprehensible to those who have not read the earlier ones. Good writers can avoid this by providing enough exposition that new readers can quickly get up-to-date (hopefully in a way that does not bore loyal readers). Unfortunately, Dawn Cook doesn?t quite do this in Lost Truth, the fourth book in her Truth series. And this is a problem, since the past of the heroine Alissa includes time travel, the ability to turn into a raku (it would be too easy for a new reader if Cook called it a dragon), a hidden second consciousness, and two men (one minstrel and one ghost) competing for her hand.
In the previous books Alissa met the minstrel Strell and discovered she had inherited her father?s magical abilities and needed to be trained by the Raku Masters of the Hold. But a renegade Keeper (human with magical abilities) had tricked all but one of these Masters into their seeming deaths, killed all the Keepers, and imprisoned the last Master, who mockingly calls himself ?Useless?. In the course of the first two books, Alissa learns magic and ultimately opens the book of First Truth, which revealed her own secret raku heritage, making her a Master, although still a student. She gained the ability to transform into a raku and made a pact with her internal Beast who controls the raku?s flying ability. In the third book she time traveled into the past where she had a relationship with Lodesh, who still lives in her time as he was cursed to survive until making amends for refusing to help a group of refugees.
In Lost Truth, a search for the missing Masters of the Hold, a search prompted by Alissa?s dream-contact with another Raku, is complicated by the competition between Strell and Lodesh for Alissa?s love, Alissa?s need to conceal her inner Beast from the others, and Alissa?s contact?s disbelief. Also, flashbacks tell the story of Useless and his lover and rival, Keribdis. The Masters experiment with human genetics to slow the creation of Keepers, and Useless opposed Keribdis? plan to solve the problem by killing half of the world?s population. When Alissa and company (all except Useless) find the Masters, Keribdis promptly claims Alissa as a student but is shocked to find out how many of their secrets Useless had revealed and that some of Alissa?s abilities (and her will) are stronger than Keribdis? own, leading to distrust and ultimately, outright combat. Meanwhile, Alissa finally makes a decision about who to marry and the plotline with Beast is resolved.
However, I did not find this book as strong as the first two volumes. First, sad to say, Alissa has become what in fanfic is called a Mary Sue, with powers and abilities after a single year of using magic that the others do not have after hundreds of years. She also knows more about how their raku consciousness works than the others. Second, the antagonist, Keribdis, is much too shrill and selfish, prone to ranting and melodramatic flourishes, so that it is difficult to see her as the leader of a group that rules by consensus. Aside from that, characterization remains a strong point of Cook?s books. It is interesting how well her characterization of the minstrel Strell holds up when he is practically the only one in the book without magical powers. Romantic elements, although strong, do not overpower the fantasy (although present to a much greater degree than in earlier volumes).
Obviously, Lost Truth is not where newcomers should start reading the series. I found the first two books (I have not yet read the third) better. I recommend starting with First Truth and Hidden Truth, which ends most of the plotlines (although seeds for the third and fourth book were planted in these). Then, if the reader wants more, continuing with Forgotten Truth and Lost Truth. This series would please readers of romances and fans of Mercedes Lackey or Tamora Pierce. And fans of soft science fiction, such as Anne McCaffrey, might be surprised at how at-home they feel since some of the explanations for the magic, involving atoms and fields, would not be out of place in a science fiction novel.