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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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review 2015-03-17 15:15
Grand Conspiracy (Wars of Light & Shadow #5; Arc 3 - Alliance of Light, #2) - Janny Wurts

I am completely captivated by the Wars of Light and Shadow series.

And if I were not quite convinced, this second book of the Alliance of Light reaffirms once again all the elements that mark for me an encompassing adult fantasy experience: gorgeous writing, rounded, consistent characters, solid world-building, clashes and blood (oh yes), plots and counterplots, political intrigue, calculated endgames, pleasing unpredictability, witty dialogues, though-provoking themes and a cartload of entertainment. The ending, with all of its tight wrap up of all of the strings and characters, with the humor and the double-cross twists of fate I absolutely cherish in the series as usual caught me unawares, but with the following book, Peril's Gate, timely at hand.

The key to this part of the story is the title, Grand Conspiracy: the book’s thriving, intertwining coils of conspiracy immerse the reader, along with all the characters involved (ever developing, ever intense in their flawed, passionate and human way) in a complicated and politically changing situation, where the established boundaries of right and wrong blur, yesterday’s enemies become today’s allies and vice-versa, ambivalence rules and the main players’ known and hidden agendas come to fruition or shift in failure with interdependent resolution. If revelations and conspiracies –and the implications beneath- take the main stage, the book is far from lacking in hammering action. The bedlam of the last chapters is priceless with its superb mix of humor and tragedy, and the mid-book focus on the s’Brydion strategies immersive and wily fast-paced.

"Two accursed princes hold the world’s fate between them".

Arithon keeps sailing the blue-waters seeking the vanished Paravians and finds his only solace in the maturing powers of his art. “Unable to lie for convenience” or “to break from the sound tenets of his character”, he heavily relies on his “sharp penchant for cleverness” to avoid disaster. Aided by Dakar, the clanborn and his secretive network of allies, he holds on his integrity struggling to maintain his sanity against the compulsion of the Mistwraith’s hate-geas. Yet his stolen reprieve may draw to a close, threatened by the Koriani plotting to exploit “his royal-born tie to compassion” to bring about his downfall and the Alliance, weaving its “growing tapestry of power linking cities east to west on the continent”, exacerbating the crusade against darkness and sorcery.

Lysaer, "dangerous beyond compare since no one alive can guess his preferred agenda", casts his net wider claiming divine inspiration and carefully tends his inner circle of powerful advisers. All exalted leadership and cool calculation, ever the consummate politician, he bides his time answering the nurtured fear of the masses with his “war-bent call to religion” and “steering Alliance interests to bind terrified trade guilds into a strangling dependency”. However, when the dictates of “cold bullion” and unexpected setbacks threaten mire his strategy “to key the next stage of his empire”, not only Lysaer keeps rallying mage talent to his cause, but he starts to court the advantages of the very same dark practices he pledged to uproot…

The factions and individuals involved (knowingly or not) in the feud between the royal half-brothers are driven by different interests and loyalties which may logically change over time, sport very subjective moral grounds, and play the game with their own sets of rules, often to the result of avalanching consequences for the world of Athera.

The Koriani Prime enchantress Morriel, nearing the end of her prolonged life, who patiently conspires and deftly sets her long-range intent to thwart the Fellowship authority. Lirenda, all citybred elegance and disowned groomed successor to the pinnacle of Koriani power, driven by blind ambition and conflicting passions, obsessed and compelled to capture Arithon for the purpose of reinstatement and personal vengeance. Elaira, oath-bound to Koriani obedience, yet inseparably linked to the Prince of Rathain, shining example of willpower and humility. Fionn Areth, plagued by a preordained fate and unwary pawn of a greater scheme. The charter law-abiding clans, bane of the town trade guilds, convenient scapegoats relentlessly hunted by Alliance soldiers and fleeing to neutral Havish or hiding in order to survive. The ever-present threat of the Mistwraith from the dead planet of Marak and the Rockfell prison. The s’Brydion family of Alestron, fiercely protective of its freedom and cunningly refusing to be anyone’s game piece. Cerebeld, First High Priest to the Prince of the Light, and the growing number of his gifted collaborators, whose born talents are drawn to Lysaer’s cause under the full awareness of his s’Ahelas farsight. The Fellowship Sorcerers, bound “to ensure Paravian survival no matter the cost of the sacrifice” and whose reserves are stretched painfully thin, have “no license to use power to influence mortal destinies” and “can act only by the Law of the Major Balance, inside a prescribed set of limits”, which leave them and their charges in a most precarious position.

One of the aspects I love of this series is how carefully the details are woven in the “world's broadscale tapestry of events”. Grand Conspiracy shows again deep and careful planning; particularly the denouement is testimony of the incredible craft of Janny Wurts, who manages to balance all the layers and levels of the story and to offer timely answers to the questions of the reader; what’s more, with each title in the series the delivery builds tighter and faster. She never fails to impress with her rare gift for words, delightful in humour, descriptions, dialogue and action

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