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Crown of Stars #7 by Kate  Elliott
Review by Madeleine Yeh
DAW Hardcover Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 075640326X
Date: 07 February, 2006 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

As the book starts out the world has endured the cataclysm, earthquakes and tsunami when the lands of the Ashioi rejoined the rest of the earth. The weather is horrible, the terrain has changed, a famine is impending, there are enemies on all sides, and the idiots are having a civil war. Sanglant is now ruling the land but another branch of the family is making a bid for the throne. Mother Scholastica, Sanglant's aunt also opposes his rule. Liath starts looking for forbidden sorcery and ends up captured by her enemies and searching for her daughter. Hanna and Sister Roscovita are making the long dangerous journey home. Alain is looking for the legal heir to the county of Lavastine. And far far away a determined enemy is raising evil magic. Lord Stronghand is bringing his forces to join the battle. This book mimics the real world too well, everything happens at once. Characters appear and reappear. The book wraps up this era, but history does not end it just continues.

The beauty of this series isn't in its plot but in its characters and setting. This is not the common bland pastiche of many fantasy worlds. Most is set in Medieval Germany but in a more primitive era where small communities huddle together against the fearful forest. The church is similar to Christianity but with some vivid differences. The Ashioi have a culture which derives quite frankly from the Aztecs, but is fresh and very real, showing the culture as it would appear to those living within it. The landscape is vividly and clearly drawn. The characters don't just move from place to place as if along a superhighway, they toil through narrow dark forest paths, they traverse high cold mountain paths, they squelch along a bog. There are many people in the book from kings and queens through great nobles and clerics, to simple farmers and soldiers. These are distinct people; brave and timid, cruel and kind, controlled and emotional; with distinct names and personalities, interests and loyalties. I liked not the great battle scenes or the climatic confrontations but little vignettes of every day activity that revealed small interactions and personality.

This is a very good climax to a very long series. I think I like whole series much better now that it has come to an end. Its a very good series for those who like large multi-layered books with very large casts. There is almost too many threads and too many characters and too many plots and too much history to follow. But the writing is clear and excellent, the universe is interesting, the politics and warfare believable.

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