Monday, August 8, 2011

"The Key to Creation" by Kevin J. Anderson (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Kevin J. Anderson Website

Order "The Key to Creation" HERE

Read FBC Review of The Edge of the World

Read FBC Review of The Map of All Things

INTRODUCTION: Last year I said the following about "The Map of all Things":

"If you want a complex series with multiple happenings, lots of plot threads and "swords and sail-ships" as sense of wonder, Terra Incognita is for you. Written in the author's clear prose I enjoyed a lot the series debut "The Edge of the World", while I thought "The Map of all Things" (A+ from me) a step up in the series taking it to the top level of current secondary world epic offerings."

I started "The Key to Creation" the moment I got it since it picked up where "The Map of all Things" ended with all set up both for the deciding confrontation between Tierra and Uraba as well as for finding out the "true" story of Ondun, Terravitae, Aiden and Urec. I provided a lengthy overview of the setting and main characters in the reviews linked above but for newcomers to the series, its basics facts are as follow:

There is the legend of the world creator Ondun and his three sons, of whom Aiden and Urec set across the seas in great arkships and supposedly settled the two known continents of the present, Tierra and Uraba which are separated by a narrow isthmus of land; there has been a centuries long conflict between the Aidenists of Tierra and the Urabans that follow Urec's teachings, conflict that seemed just to be settled by a treaty, when it actually flared into the nastiest war ever between the two people due to a set of unfortunate circumstances and the logic of escalation; there are also neutral map-makers and scientists/philosophers called Saedrans who are supposedly the surviving remnants of Joron's people, the third son of Ondun who remained in the ancestral continent of Terravitae now assumed submerged under the sea.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: As befitting a trilogy ending novel, all the main characters from the series appear and most have extensive POV chapters: Queen Anjine of Tierra, her childhood friend, army sub-commander Mateo Bornan, Criston Vora former sailor, hermit and now ship captain on a quest for Terravitae, Saan, stepson of Soldan-shah Omra of Uraba whose quest led to his meeting of the mysterious girl Ystia and her menacing mother Iyomelka who claim to be Ondun's daughter and wife respectively, Istar, Omra's main wife, mother of Saan and two princesses, prester Hannes fanatic Aidenist clergy, terrorist in Uraba and escapee from Uraban mines and quite a few others.

The series ending novel is always a tricky proposition especially in a trilogy with a classical structure and The Key to Creation shows this to a large extent by tying all the sub-threads of the epic which pushes the story along predictable lines. Another difference from the earlier books is that the content of the novel is less dark - there is still the quota of killed characters though this time none really came as a surprise, so the book was less twisty and dramatic.

These being said, I greatly enjoyed The Key to Creation for several reasons: the essential stylistic features of the series: short chapters, multiple POV's, fast action are still there and the detached third person POV narration works very well especially when the multiple threads of the epic coalesce first into two and then those join together also.

The events happen fast, in a very compressed time period, so the authorial choice of showing them from several vantage points as "opposing sides" go, could have easily led to a fragmentation of the story and a disruption of the flow in a more intimate narration where the thoughts rather than the action of the characters were presented.
There are also some great moments - mostly made so by their unexpectedness - though overall there are no big surprises and the story lines move to their natural conclusions.

The last thing I would want to add is that after some pretty grim and dark two volumes and maybe two thirds here, the conclusion of the series that is reached in The Key to Creation read to me a little cute and pat, but to be honest I loved it on an emotional level and I found it appropriate since the characters grew on me during their journeys and I enjoyed seeing their story lines ending in such a manner.

Overall the The Key to Creation (A) is a strong conclusion to a series - Terra Incognita - that has everything you want from a fantasy epic - intrigue, land and sea battles, assassinations and assassination attempts, discoveries, magic, strange creatures - as well as sense of wonder that is usually associated with space opera, but which the author managed to transpose in the "swords and sails" context.

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