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Banewreaker by Jacquelne Carey
Review by Madeleine Yeh
Tor Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765305216
Date: November 1, 2004 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Banewreaker turns the Tolkein genre upside down and inside out. In this world mortal men and the immortal Ellyon battle against the trolls of Darkhaven and their evil lord, and an innocent youth is on an perilous quest to destroy the dark god?s greatest weapon. Men and Ellyon blame Sartoris for the mutilation of the world, and the decline of the Ellyon; but things are not that simple.

The story is told mainly from the viewpoint of the evil Shaper, Sartoris, and his followers. As the story opens a long stalemate is coming to an end. A red star rises in the west. The forces of the Men and Ellyon gather their armies to attack Sartoris. Malthus the counselor, the immortal emissary of the eldest Shaper, plots to fulfill the ancient prophecy and destroy Sartoris; an immortal Ellyon lady agrees to marry the last descendent of mortal kings; a small picked group sets forth on a secret quest. In defense for the upcoming attack, Sartoris raises his Fjeltroll forces, gathers his allies, kidnaps the Ellyon lady, and sends his army out to do battle.

Like Tolkien?s Middle Earth, the world of Urulat has a long history which is revealed slowly as the story progresses. Once there were seven Shapers, lesser gods who arose as the world was created. Haomane First-Born, created from the head of Uru-Alat, claimed leadership of his six siblings. When Sartoris Third-Born refused to obey him, he cast him out and sunderered the world into two parts, isolating Sartoris from the other Shapers. Haomanes? allies, Ellyon and Men, trapped on the same continent as Sartoris, seek to destroy Sartoris on behalf of their god. There have been six ages of conflict and war, now in the seventh age perhaps the final battle is approaching.

This story is told from multiple points of view, which give richness and depth to this world and its history and characters. The history is very tragic. A war which began among the Shapers has spread to the lesser races of Men and Fjeltrolls and Dwarves and Ellyon and Were. The continent has been split with a deep sea separating the island of Torath from the body. The dragons, ancient and wise, are nearly all dead. The Were are few and fading. The Ellyon dwindle, suffering from the separation from their god. Most of the Ellyon have died during the long conflict. The Fjeltrolls were once a peaceful people, and now form the bulk of Sartoris? army.

This is not primarily an action driven epic. It is much more a story of the characters: Sartoris, the wounded god; his three immortal lieutenants, Tanoris the general, Vorax master of supplies, and Ushahin who reads dreams; Lilias, the sorceress of the East, Carfax, a junior officer in Sartoris? army, and Cerelinde, the Ellyon lady. In a typical Tolkien world, the division is black and white, the heroes versus the Orcs. Here the division is not clear. The Fjeltrolls are the most decent race in the book. They sheltered Sartoris when he was wounded and alone, and gave him their aid and loyalty despite all his enemies because of his kindness. Men hunt and kill the cubs of the Were. Ushahin, half Ellyon half Man was abandoned and injured by both races, and only found kindness among the Were. There is death, destruction, suffering and folly galore, and unlike a Tolkein universe, in this book it is easy to grieve for both sides.

Banewreaker is an excellent novel. The characters are believable and the story compelling. The reader gets caught up with the multiple characters and plots and personalities. The only thing really wrong with this book is that it's part one of a duology and the conclusion will not be available until GodSlayer which comes out next year.

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