Having read Enchantment, I figured another fairy tale book from Orson Scott Card would prove a good and entertaining read. I am quite happy to tell you that yes, yes it was. Built in the style of German fairy tales, the story line contains some PG13 content and sometimes some PG15 content. It’s not for the squeamish as it contains one rape scene of an underage child, one feeding of a child to a snake pit and some gruesome tales of conjoined twins. Not going to mention torture and incest. If you liked “A song of ice and fire”, you’re in the right spot.
If you can get over these scenes, you will definitely enjoy this book – a coming of age story and a good vs evil fairytale. Card himself calls this his best writing ever and I completely agree. It is a very “dark” fantasy so don’t go into this looking for a “feel good” book.
“if only we could stand outside our lives and look at what we do, we might repair so many injuries before they’re done.”
The kingdom of Inwit, formerly Hart’s Hope has endured a power struggle for over 300 years, through magical and at times divine intervention the cruel king was usurped by Palicrivol a man the Gods deemed worthy to rule, he was then exiled by Queen Beauty, daughter of the cruel king, robbed of her virtue and banished from her homeland she uses the blackest of magic to lord over all.
The Gods through small miracles cause the Hero’s Journey of Orem Scanthips, the only person who can thwart the evil queen.
Orem is secretly the son of Palicrivol with a farmer’s wife, seventh son much like Alvin. He grew up shunned by his mother for his spell-undoing knack and loved by his father, even though he looked nothing like him.
“Fatherhood to us was an act of passion, soon forgot; but not to Orem ap Avonap. Never guessing that the blond and happy farmer was no blood of his, Orem had taken a part of that simple man into himself and saved it for this time. At any time in the Palace he might run by, Youth on this shoulders or, as time went by, toddling along behind.”
Orem was given to a priest school where he learned how to read and write and he had a special talent into arranging the letters and numbers so that they spelled different messages when read left-to-right and top-to-bottom.
He escapes the school up river when Palicrivol notices him and screams for him and he goes into Inwit. Here, under Beauty’s rule, is trying to find a job in a place very similar to King’s Landing. A place where you have poverty and thievery and luxury just a few neighborhoods apart.
He does not want to be a servant for a servant as no songs were ever written for such people but he does end up as a magician’s apprentice where he is used for his special knack.
Soon, all the wizards on Wizard street find themselves at a loss when their spells stop working and their houses collapse. Orem trains and finds out how to far-see like the queen. He is soon soaring in the air with his mind-eye and finds out he can erase parts of the queen’s cloud of seeing just by thinking about it.
In an act of goodness he helps Palicrivol gain some respite from the queen’s continuous attacks and the king has a good night’s sleep in 300 years.
But that’s only the beginning.
Very intense, and it is a little bit of a tragedy. No one is completely good or completely bad, but there are clear lines of good/evil dilineation. The religious/cultural inter-play is facinating. The women have their own religion, and the men debate between two others, but often actually follow both. The whole story is wrapped up in lineage, in fertiltiy, in growth and power. Thus there is alot of sexual inuendo and actual action, but it is not superfluous. It plays into the relifious and essence of life understanding of the people. It is not like most books (i.e. “Makers” by Doctorow) It actually advances the story and deepens the plot and characters. It plays into who they are, and there is no more then what is useful for that. It is very descriptive, even slightly erotic, but in the context of cultural understanding of the characters. Its deeply part of their life and their experience and how they reacte to things.
It hurt to read this book, because of what happens to children in it. What the characters do to children. Also the protagonist is a tragic figure, as often happens with anyone in any story where he/she is ally/enemy to the gods.