The Wide World's End (A Tournament of Shadows)
by James Enge
Review by Benjamin Wald
Pyr Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616149079
Date: 17 February 2015 List Price $18.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Wide World's End is the third book in James Enge's trilogy recounting the origin story of Morlock Ambrosius. Followers of Morlock's adventures know that the wandering master of makers is embittered by his exile from his home in the Wardlands, and struggles with alcoholism, partly as a result of this exile. A looming question of this book, therefore, is seeing how Morlock ends up exiled, and what happens to his wife, Aloê Oaji, to prevent her joining him. This novel provides satisfying answers to both these questions, and does so alongside the fascinating, fast-paced sword and sorcery story that Enge tells so well.
In the first two books of the trilogy, Morlock established himself as a member of the graith of guardians, the group that protects the anarchist Wardlands from outside threats and internal would-be tyrants. In the second novel, his romance with Aloê develops, and he marries her. Now, he has been married for a century, and he is at the height of his powers--a master of making, and a respected member of the graith of guardians.
However, the Wardlands, and indeed the entire world, now face a new threat. The sunkillers, unknown beings from beyond the edge of the world, are draining the energy from the sun. It is getting colder, and crops are failing, leading to desperation and chaos beyond the Wardlands. Morlock must depart on a quest to find and stop the sunkillers, while Aloê remains behind to investigate the murder of one of the three highest leaders of the graith of guardians, a murder she comes to suspect was engineered by members of the graith itself.
While I was not always sold on the earlier two books of the trilogy, this one is perfect. The action is non-stop, switching between Morlock and Aloê's perspective while always leaving you on a cliffhanger. Other members of Morlock's dysfunctional family make an appearance, with his sister Ambrosia aiding him on his quest and his father Merlin causing chaos and bloodshed while pursuing goals of his own. The writing is fast paced and captivating, and Morlock remains fascinating despite his withdrawn and taciturn ways.
The two storylines come together perfectly, forcing Morlock to make an agonizing choice that ends with his exile from the Wardlands. I was skeptical that Enge could provide a backstory that would live up to the scattered hints dropped in other works, but The Wide World's End manages it with ease. Enge remains a master of the sword and sorcery style, and Morlock remains a creation that rivals Conan or Ffhard and the Grey Mouser.
Some of the power of this book is lost if you have not encountered Morlock previously, as it charts his path to becoming the cynical and bitter character of the later stories, so I recommend starting with one of the earlier works, but for those who have already come to know and love Morlock, this is certainly a must read.