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review 2015-07-16 00:00
Stormwarden - Janny Wurts Delightful and rich, this is a high fantasy tale in the best of Janny Wurts’ tradition, so definitely not easy to fit into genre conventions: the story is geared towards a wider audience but it’s not a classic coming-of-age tale or YA in outlook; there are powerful sorcerers and demons, but they are not all-knowing; there is a medieval-flavoured world full of lore and magic, but also intriguing sci-fi elements; the villains are both standard and surprising…the list could go on, anyway the innovation I liked the most (considering when this book was written) is that there is a classic fantasy structure along with a very modern focus on characters’ psychology and morality.
While this book doesn’t have the complex upending of tropes or the deep challenge of the reader’s assumptions which I’ve come to love in her later works, Wurts weaves the story with impeccable rhythm, a skillful rising of tension, clear direction and, at the same time, little predictability of how the plotlines are going to unfold.

As a fan of [b:The Wars of Light and Shadow|28660|The Curse of the Mistwraith (Wars of Light & Shadow, #1)|Janny Wurts|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328835513s/28660.jpg|1945432], I could see in Stormwarden some familiar elements, like sailing, prophecies, good vs evil without clear-cut lines, obsessive compulsion in a perfectly logical mind, empathy, a full-fledged magic system and several aspects of what defines well-rounded and multifaceted characters. Even though the similarities are loose, a long time reader won’t fail to appreciate both the little connections and how Wurts, unfailingly, never writes the same tale twice.

In this first book of the Cycle of Fire trilogy I particularly liked the gripping premise and the protagonists, two boys and a girl, all flawed and not all able to make the right decisions at the right time. Their personalities are complex and the result of their strengths, weaknesses and childhood experiences; they have different ways to relate to their mistakes, inadequacies and self-doubts born of tragedy; facing similar challenges and ever-changing circumstances, they have their own personal reactions, from hatred to love, from will to carve a path to the future standing on their own merits to sheltering in self-deception. All, invariably, strive to make their choices count and pursue their own interests as they’re caught in the machinations of the ancient powers vying for supremacy in the world of Keithland.

What if they play someone's else game?

The themes are mature and the tones are not light, there is hope but also a sense of foreboding and impending doom throughout, and I liked the gravitas of the narration, which is probably the only concession to the ’80s fantasy fashion. As I expected this book doesn’t end with a cliffhanger, but the story is open and I’m really eager to read [b:Keeper of the Keys|28669|Keeper of the Keys (The Cycle of Fire, #2)|Janny Wurts|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388813121s/28669.jpg|29184] and immerse again in the tale of Jaric, Emien, Taen and Anskiere.

This is an epic story of future and past, of strength that could arise out of weakness, of cross-manipulation, denied dreams, burning ambitions, courage, cowardice, choices and destiny. The world is vividly depicted, no fans of sailing will be disappointed, there are several forms of magic and an engaging mix of action and mysteries. I cannot seem to get enough of Wurts’ characters, creativity, great world-building and design. Her storytelling makes her tales simply different, original, and each a unique voyage.
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review 2015-05-16 13:48
Sorcerer's Legacy - Janny Wurts

Impressive, I can't believe it's the author's first book. Powerful, fast-paced, full of intrigue and twists, with a great, adult protagonist, a varied cast of characters, intriguing magic and probabilities, a compelling narrative craft with great prose.
Janny Wurts surely fulfilled all the author promises embedded in this work and much, much more

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review 2015-04-24 18:40
Initiate's Trial - Janny Wurts

I roared along the book and my spontaneous comment after the final sequence was “OMG! Read this one!”

Heartfelt advice; if you’ve read Stormed Fortress, do not miss this first book of the Sword of the Canon Arc. I'm very happy I read this gripping installment straightaway, Initiate's Trial shifts gears but not the pace, which increases, again, and what sets the stage is the very ending of the previous book, particularly all the things that emerge in the final chapters. Another round of applause to the author, I was surprised yet again and it wasn't easy, after the awesome Alliance of Light Arc, to write something equally powerful and continuing the story with originality and sensation. The approach is pretty intense, and daring, because the tale is not done in linear time. It was not easy to accept it at first, considering how I loved the story and the characters, but then I just immersed into the narrative and saw the events through the eyes of the protagonists; this literary choice added to the reading momentum: going forward, I was also in suspense to find out what had happened before.

It takes courage, certainly, but after the ending of Stormed Fortress, I guess a different direction may have sprawled things and probably one of the elements why this series works so fine for me is, in hindsight, that while the story never takes an angle of unredeemable sadness and pain, nothing overstays its welcome. The Wars of Light and Shadow doesn’t suffer from lack of inspiration or from excessive attachment to characters or situations, or on the other hand, from deliberate slaughter.

I am again reminded Janny Wurts is an author who doesn't repeat herself and doesn’t sacrifice coherence for expediency's sake; she keeps fitting a multi-layered epic into no wasted steps and brilliantly manages to raise tension and conflict with each volume.

I particularly relished the enfolding themes of the nature of religious fanaticism, social stigma, of the necessity of balancing conflicting interests, the many shades of redemption, the rippling impact of individual choices, the backlash of power and the several surprises with double ramifications genially spread throughout the book, among which, some exciting reveals on Lysaer character.

The book is deeply engaging, yet it's different from all its predecessors. It is exactly the reader’s knowledge of the story which allows the shocking opening and the narrower outlet on the events; I also loved the way the language matches the feeling of uncertainty, of unbalance and of the instinct behavior of the characters involved; then the veil gradually lifts granting both fast-paced action and introspection, until the climax when all the threads burst forth. Throughout, the intensity never wavers. Characteristically, the book does not end with a cliff-hanger, but needless to say, many things have been set into motion and I am fully in step with the new situation, eagerly looking forward to Destiny’s Conflict.

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review 2015-04-14 07:44
Traitor's Knot (Wars of Light & Shadow #7; Arc 3 - Alliance of Light, #4) - Janny Wurts

(No spoilers on the series) Stunning. I devoured this book. I was completely hooked and unable to stop turning the pages, all the while immersing with ease and tight focus in the story. Gorgeous, exciting, haunting, draining, the plot exerts an irresistible pull and throws the reader in a whirlwind of action, drama, witty bantering, tales of plunder, grim predicaments, thwarted desires, true friendships, covert entanglements and malicious, subtle plotting.

The convergence started with Peril’s Gate, and the rolling break-neck pace, keep on in this book, where the unveilings about the events entwine with the brilliance of the complex energy system governing the world of Athera. In Traitor’s Knot high seriousness and emotionally powerful scenes (including one of the grimmest chapters of the whole series so far, not to mention an unforgettable sequence of dramatic intensity where comedy and tragedy mingle unmercifully) are seamlessly accompanied by moments of clever humor, much to the delight of the reader and (some) of the characters alike; one of the many techniques in the boundless artistic arsenal of the author, who manages, once again, to reach the highest pinnacles of imaginative grace.

Even the characters-traded insults are vivid and artistic!

I love the structure of this series, where several answers are not up front or spoon-fed, the story makes the reader reach for them and live them the deeper when they arrive. I was prompted through the books to figure out what to think about the events, the world and the characters, but all the tools are always supplied and the resulting cohesive picture is incredible.
The story played with my perceptions and my sensibilities. I was thoroughly, sweepingly, utterly and inside out-ly manipulated by the author: from start to end this book delivered intense scenes with relentless pace, building on my awareness of the layers laid down in previous volumes that allowed them to move on all levels without explanation. And the smooth change from seriousness to humor to the bittersweet and back again got me off-guard most often than not, probably to the intended emotional involvement as the story progressed.

It is indeed not only what the story shows, how the plot unfolds and the characters develop, it's also how this is told, the delivery, the balance, the depth and the genuine delight at the revelations, that makes a great difference. I loved the previous books and I was satisfied, but little did I know when I started reading Curse of the Mistwraith that it was just the beginning of what has already become an all-time favorite fantasy series.
Traitor's Knot is all denouements, the story unfolds at break-neck pace and I finished the volume within a few days and didn't even notice how absorbed I was, then I approached Stormed Fortress, the longest Arc of the series finale with high expectations, and again, no letup.

It is incredible what was managed with a relatively small cast of characters in a relatively small world (no multiple worlds or continents here), but again, one of the cornerstones of Janny Wurts’ storytelling is “no sprawl”: the story doesn’t repeat itself and the characters never stagnate. This series is awesome, so well worth the journey. The story keeps flowing beautifully along with the building of more tension; the narrative takes you and simply does not let you go.

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review 2015-04-11 23:28
Stormed Fortress - Janny Wurts

What an Arc finale, a sweeping wrapping up and great balance of murderdom and beauty. Full circle indeed.

In this exceptional, flawless last book of the Alliance of Light Arc the story converges with intense and natural ease, and many plot threads are harmonically tied up against the backdrop of the siege of Alestron. The fortified citadel itself, with its charming atmosphere and dire straits, is a full-fledged protagonist as well as the stage of moral and armed conflicts, heroic deeds, petty revenges, opposed interests, complex strategies and fascinating mysteries permeating the book.

As always, one of the great skills of the author is to paint human feelings in impeccable prose, from tragedy to the highest form of exaltation, from sorrow, dread and ruin, to inspiration, hope and joy, inextricably intertwined with the gorgeous magic and life-force system of the world of Athera. The pace is relentless, the story superbly well-grounded yet unpredictable, one revelation follows the other, the characters are real, very rounded in their strengths and weaknesses, and they change, mature, or stay unmoving in their course, with all the nuances of the human soul which embraces both light and shadow. In this book, the themes of friendship and love are further explored, in their purest forms, free from selfishness, as the concept of loyalty to an ideal, to a cause, to a person, to a place, up to the extreme. All the involved factions pursue their goals with varying degrees of honesty and awareness, and the interests of the great opposing forces on the game-board (and beyond) converge on Alestron to influence its fate, and with it, that of the whole world.

There are many intense and expressive scenes, deliberately designed to immerse the reader in a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts; it is impossible not to feel part of the great cast of characters who, once again, enchants and surprises, particularly the half-brothers whose cursed conflict has seeded insecurity, attracted interests, escalated old enmities and invariably driven mankind to take sides.

I held high expectations for this book and the performance is impeccable. I was in awe of the delivery, with its seamless story and with Janny Wurts’ mastery for managing every scene, every character, down to the last little detail sown in the previous volumes, with consistency and originality. Depth and no sprawl, the accuracy and the boundless, scientific creativity I’ve come to expect from the author of this timeless fantasy series is evident in all the descriptions, the locations, the actions and the witty dialogues. I'm a fan of historical fiction, too, and sieges, with the maelstrom of psychology and physicality they entail, are one of my favorite themes, so I was thrilled to read such compelling and engaging siege description of a most original coastal city, it gives the story another flavor of uniqueness. This book totally enchanted me.

I can’t get enough of Athera. After a little time to recoup from the engulfing finale, I started the next book, Initiate's Trial; many questions have been answered, but the last few chapters of Stormed Fortress open new horizons with natural grace, along with the story continuation, once again raising the stakes, and setting the markers further ahead. Terrific!!

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