Pros: Does an unbelievably good job of living up to the previous two books; delves much deeper into some of the characters
Cons: Make sure you read this particular trilogy from the beginning!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review book (ARC) courtesy of Penguin Group
Note: I’ll do my best to avoid big spoilers from the first two books, but it’s impossible to avoid giving away at least a few details.
In book one, The Silver Lake, several young thieves survive the chaos known as Havo’s Dance, each in his own way. Brax makes his oaths to Estavia, the Battle Goddess, in return for her help. Spar is coming into his own as a seer, but still too young to choose a path for himself, he must go to the shelter of Estavia’s temple with Brax. Graize, long a rival of the other two, is nearly killed by a maelstrom of hungry spirits—only to grab hold of them and mold them into a newborn Godling.
The Golden Tower finds Graize determined to destroy Brax and Spar, while Hisar, the Godling, grows in power and knowledge. It seeks aid from both Spar and Graize in this, only fueling Graize’s madness, jealousy, and obsession with Brax.
Finally, in Fiona Patton’s The Shining City, war looms on the horizon. Graize has helped to weave together a skein of allies to attack the shining city of Anavaton. Hisar is on the cusp of godhood, a child seeking understanding and power. Brax is recovering from his injuries, while Spar helps Hisar to come into his own.
The Shining City (Book Three of The Warriors of Estavia) includes all the lovely aspects that made the previous books so outstanding. The exploration of bonds and relationships is exquisite. The characters come alive as surely as if you could see and speak with them. The setting is both alien in nature and entirely natural-feeling.
One thing that has impressed me throughout the series is the way in which Fiona uses terminology. Authors sometimes sprinkle capitalized or made-up terms throughout works of fantasy or SF haphazardly, but in this trilogy, each one is carefully thought-out. Each new term represents a concept that would be common to the people of that world, but for which we have no single equivalency. Each capitalized term is something that the characters would view as a proper noun.
The depiction of the divine in these books is dazzling. It’s so original and fascinating that even without all of the emotion, heartbreak, and action, I’d still find this series completely engrossing. It’s the best look I’ve ever seen at what it might be like to live with gods who consistently interfere in their followers’ lives.
Fiona also presents an unusual, very fluid examination of romantic and sexual relationships. She handles concepts such as same-sex relationships and bi-gender characters with a grace and thoughtfulness that allows those things to simply act as a natural part of the world, rather than some sort of bald, obvious statement.
Despite all of the above, I feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface in describing The Shining City and its predecessors. The plot has so many twists and turns that it’s tough to see how it’ll get where it’s going. The characters certainly have their surprises waiting for the reader—particularly Panos, the very unusual seer who showed up earlier in the series. There’s action aplenty, tense scenes that will leave you worrying terribly about the characters, and moments that left me tearful. Graize and Brax definitely get good air time—I felt as though all of the main characters were rounded out in any way that remained necessary after the last two books.
I would eagerly recommend this series to any fan of fantasy! Just make sure you start at the beginning, because the series is too rich in detail to begin in the middle. Since it’s a trilogy, however, rather than a more open-ended series, that isn’t a particular problem.