While I was on travel, and just before I got the flu for a week (hence, no blogging), I finished Mortalis, the “bridge” novel between the two Demonwars Trilogies.  This book is my favorite part of the Demonwars saga, and one of my favorite fantasy novels in general.  This is because of the range of emotions that it evokes, and, even though it has something of a complex plot, it has a simple message, and one that I appreciate.

I’ll be spoiling that after the jump.

First, the setup for this novel is three books long, which I won’t get in to, but there was one thing that jumped out at me that was really cool.  For the first three books, the “humanistic” values of Avelyn’s faction within the church are seen as being unequivocally good, as they are contrasted with the evil of the demon dactyl.  Here, though, they are contrasted by something a bit different – a church who really is interested in saving the souls of the living, even if the bodies suffer.  In this light, when Avelyn’s faction are called out as “upstart young monks”, it rings pretty true.

This context, though, is perfect for Francis’s story arc.  In the first trilogy, Francis was never the brave one – he followed Markwart to a fault, even killed innocent folk and allowed others to be tortured.  Yet here, he recites the words of a heretic to the Father Aboot, then, taking only a soul stone, goes out of the abbey to attempt to heal the sick.  He does so of his own volition, knowing, that he will be forsaken by his brotherhood in doing so.  Even though he doesn’t heal a single sufferer, his strength of moral character is really shown here, and it’s pretty awe inspiring.

My only complaint against the book is that I feel it too often substitutes proof for faith.  I often felt like Avelyn’s godly messages should have come from a place of faith, where the listener would need to believe without proof in the righteous path.  Instead, the miracles at mouth Eda provide proof in Avelyn’s closeness to God.  And, while it made for exciting storytelling, that proof always seemed to subvert the messages of faith that were so near the surface of the story.

Still, in this particular case, even though it breaks a few of its own rules to do so, some of the moments in this book are extremely powerful and poignant, and I highly recommend reading the Demonwars saga to anyone who likes fantasy.  Further, I would recommend reading Mortalis even if you have no plans of reading the second trilogy.

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