For those of you out there who don’t necessarily want your fantasy setting in a city with a vampire or werewolf lurking in every shadow. Don’t panic. It isn’t all fangs and blood-drenched sex. There are still authors prepared to write with a fresh twist for those of you who prefer good old-fashioned fantasy… Where magic is lethal and everyday. And a young, untried but talented acolyte struggles to prevail… Enter Trudi Canavan.
It’s been a while since I read Priestess of the White and Last of the Wilds – and if you haven’t yet come across this trilogy, I VERY strongly recommend you get hold of them first, before embarking on Voice of the Gods. Canavan doesn’t do ‘the story so far’, which I frankly think is a shame. I have a shocking memory and after reading the first two books one after the other some two years ago, it took me some time to get back into the story and recall exactly who the characters were. Of course, with an accomplished author like Canavan, I was scooped up into the story and fully engaged well before the halfway mark. But as I didn’t have time to go back and re-read the first two volumes, it would have been helpful to have a few pages explaining what had happened so far, clearly marked so those who didn’t need them could skip that bit…
The series follows the fortunes of those who worship the Five, a pantheon of five gods who were the sole survivors of a war in Heaven, where they revolted against the old gods, who were cruel and uncaring of humankind. These gods control the destiny of the mortals in the North, while pitted against them are an opposing five gods who rule the Southern lands. Told in multiple viewpoint, the main protagonist is a young girl, Auraya, who rises up through the ranks of the priesthood in the first book. Apart from the feuding sects are the mysterious Dreamweavers, who pledge themselves to the healing arts and refuse to believe in any gods, at all. Their fortunes – particularly that of their leader – is tightly interweaved in amongst the adventures and rivalries of the two opposing religions.
And that’s about all I’m going to say about the plot, because as you’ll appreciate, if I try to get too specific about Book Three, I’ll inevitably be doing some major Spoiling. However, if you’re rolling your eyes at the notion of a trilogy all about Religion, I would add that there is nothing stodgy or slow-paced about this series. In it, Canavan manages to raise some interesting questions about the role of faith and religion within society in general – questions in our largely secular western world that we don’t generally bother to examine until we are in some sort of personal crisis. But those questions are neatly nested within plenty of battles, adventures, quests and satisfying well-depicted characters.
Canavan’s world building is thorough – complete with the mandatory maps at the front of the volumes – and she manages to take us through the varied settings throughout the trilogy without any tedious info-dumping.
This, the third book in the series, has the important task of rounding off the long journey (this book, alone, is 626 pages…) that started at the beginning of Priestess of the White. A crucial point. I’ve become awfully fed up with authors who lead us through a winding adventure – only to wrap it up unconvincingly in the last page and a half. Does Canavan pull it off? Yes, she does. I love the twist near the end, although the idea had occurred to me before. However, I was still able to empathise with the characters’ reactions to the denouement.
While there are still Fantasy writers like Trudi Canavan producing enjoyable, well crafted and thought provoking series like the Age of Five, those of you who deplore the rise and rise of urban fantasy needn’t worry that the more traditional sub-genre is in any danger of disappearing. Meantime – any vampire fans who fancy a break from urban bloodletting are in for substantial treat…