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Ironcrown Moon by Julian May
Review by Colleen Cahill
Ace Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0441012442
Date: 30 April, 2005 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

If we look at fantasy literature, much of it is a struggle between good and evil. Sometimes this is a very clear divide, such as in David Edding's Belgariad series, Elizabeth Moon's Deed Of Paksenarrion or even J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Other stories present a more complex view, with the heroes being less than perfect and the villains possessing admirable qualities. Julian May takes this one step further by making it hard to tell who is a hero or villain, as she did in her well known The Saga Of The Pliocene Exile series. In Ironcrown Moon, the second volume of the Boreal Moon Tale, May again weaves an elaborate world of intense personalities where it is often difficult to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad.

King Conrig is now the Sovereign of all of the island of High Blenholme but his rule is tenuous, with many factions striving to bring his downfall. Most are scattered, but not broken and even the previously defeated enemies plot to overthrow the King, while a few work from within his court. Most worrisome are the rumors that Conrig's first wife might not have died in her suicide attempt a few years ago. If alive, Maudrayne could reveal that Conrig has a magic talent, which would cause his removal as Sovereign, and as she was pregnant when she jumped off the tower, there might be another male heir to muddy the political waters.

Conrig does have powerful allies, some of which he is not even aware of, as in the strange entity called the Source and its followers, who work hard to keep Conrig in power. They do this because the Source sees a coming conflict which they will lose if Conrig is not on the throne. A more uneasy supporter is Smudge, the Royal Intelligencer or spy who now holds the title of Sir Deveron Austrey. His past loyalty to Conrig is being tested, as Smudge realizes there are possibly no limits to what the King will do to maintain his position. Sent on a mission to confirm the rumors of Maudrayne being alive, Smudge is confronted with choices that will make him evaluate what price he is willing pay to aid his King.

This is a story of power, love, and honor that has a plot that is constantly in motion. As with most of May's work, don't try to predict what will happen next, because this author will always have a surprise ready. Throughout the book there are plots and counterplots: from assassinations to cover ups to escapes to secret hoards, the characters are almost always scheming and all find that choices by humble people, like a healer or Green Woman, can change everything. It is this wonderful energy that make a Julian May story so vivid and intriguing.

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys complex fantasy. Certainly any fans of May's earlier work will be interested in these books and those who enjoy George R. R. Martin's A Song Of Fire And Ice should seek out this series. If you want something more than good versus evil in your fantasy literature, then Boreal Moon Tales are the books for you.

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