Saturday, 3 November 2012

Exile by Rowena Cory Daniells

Exile is the second book in Rowena Cory Daniells's Outcast Chronicles. You can read my review of the first book, Besieged, here. A copy of this book was provided by the author for review purposes.

Exile picks up not long after Besieged left off. If you've read the first book, this one is definitely a continuation of the same story. There are some new characters introduced but mostly Exile follows the, ahem, surviving characters of Besieged. I have the feeling The Outcast Chronicles suffer less from absolutely needing to be read in order than some fantasy series. Yes, reading Exile first will spoil many events in Besieged, but in terms of understanding what's happening, I think it wouldn't be too bad.

That said, this review contains spoilers for events in Besieged.

Where book one spanned something like twenty-five years from start to finish, book two only covers two-ish rather tumultuous years. It continues to portray interesting and unusual sexual/gender politics in terms of women having more power in T'En culture because of their stronger magic. The T'En being segregated into sisterhoods and brotherhoods causes more tension in this book than the previous. Before it was just generalised bitterness on the part of the men that the women had more power and worry on the part of the women that the men were physically stronger. Now external factors are causing changes to their society which in tern generates a different kind of tension. It's all rather interesting and the gendered power structures among the T'En and the contrasting power structures of the humans (where women are chattel and lucky if their husbands don't beat and rape them) are a compelling reason to pick up this series. That and the fact that it's an excellent yarn.

The Mieren (ordinary human) threat is shaking up T'En society and forcing change upon them, something which only Imoshen seems capable of taking in her stride. After being elected causare, the negotiator for the all-mothers and all-fathers, she manages to broker a deal with the ailing King Charald to allow the T'En to go into exile, rather than be slaughtered. Many T'En are disappointed with this decision, which causes much dissonance among their ranks.

Sorne, now secretly serving as Imoshen's spy among King Charald's men, was a much less conflicted character than in the first book. The main tension in his story arises from trying to help the T'En without outing himself to the Mieren, rather than trying to work out who he is. For me, that made him a more sympathetic character in the sense that his motivations weren't in question.

I feel that almost everyone who isn't a point of view character (or close friends/family of a point of view character) is a terrible person, generally lacking in anything approximating compassion. This was more stark than in the first book, not because the horrible people are more horrible but because the morally ambiguous characters are out of the picture for various reasons. There are so many travesties committed by aforementioned terrible people that it bordered on getting a bit much. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't gratuitous and it was in keeping with plot and characterisation, but by-gods more than just wanting to slap annoying characters, I wanted to watch some of them die slow and painful deaths, preferably at the hands of the people they were horrible to. Which is a mark of Daniells's skill as a writer.

With Exile I am continuing to enjoy the Outcast Chronicles. I was originally planning to read something else before getting into Sanctuary, the third book, but whoops, I couldn't not pick up book 3 as soon as I finished Exile. (Not that it was a cliffhanger, but the story is definitely unfinished.) I highly recommend this series to lovers of fantasy.

4.5 / 5 stars

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