Chaz Brenchley, |
A Dark Way to Glory
(Orbit, 2000; Ace, 2003)
A Dark Way to Glory (The Third Book of Outremer) follows Chaz Brenchley's unlikely party of heroes, each of whom we have already met yet still seek to truly understand, from the outskirts of the fortress Roq de Rancon across the dangerous deserts of the Sharai to the brink of Rhabat. The weariness of such a harsh and dangerous journey weighs heavily on the action in this installment of the series, providing a welcome opportunity to learn more about each of the major characters and the very different motivations driving each of them. Those who thirst for battle scenes will find only a few such moments here, but each fight described in these pages radiates an intensity not seen previously in the series.
A Dark Way to Glory provides readers the time to evaluate and come to terms with the shocking truths revealed in the final pages of the previous book, Tower of the King's Daughter. Each major character has now faced a crossroads and made his or her choice for the future. Julianne de Rance, daughter of the King's Shadow, has chosen to wed and then steal away (reluctantly) from her husband, risking love and life to follow the instructions of a mysterious djinni. With her is Elisande, an enigmatic young lady from Surayon, the "enfolded land" that the forces of Outremer seek to find and destroy; her friendship with Julianne is only one of several reasons she travels to Rhabat. In part, she goes to thwart her hated father Rudel, the jongleur whom we now know is a dignitary of Surayon -- as is Redmond, the torture victim rescued from the cells beneath Roq de Rancon. Jemel, a Sharai fighter whose blood brother fell at the hands of the knight Sieur Anton d'Escrivey, strips himself of all tribal affiliation and insists on accompanying the party for reasons of his own.
At the heart of the whole story, though, stands young Marron; he is a truly sympathetic character who has, despite the best of intentions, betrayed the holy order of the Knights Ransomers, his master knight and now his very own people. Circumstances beyond his control have made him the Ghost Walker, holder of the darkly mysterious, deadly force known as the Daughter. In this book, the complex secrets of the Daughter slowly begin to reveal themselves.
The desert peoples of Outremer have prayed for the return of the Ghost Walker for centuries, dreaming of the day their most awesome weapon, the Daughter, would be taken up once again by the Ghost Walker and used to destroy their enemies. No one among these people would have ever chosen Marron to be the Daughter's human vessel; the lad has seen and done things that truly haunt him, and he refuses to kill again. Certainly, the enigmatic Shadow Dancers, untold generations of whom have prepared to serve the Ghost Walker when he returns, are certainly not well pleased by the weakness of the chosen one (whom they insist on accompanying across the desert).
I have to admit that the revelations of the previous book caused me to place some distance between myself and Marron, but his struggles to face up to the almost impossible challenges and internal struggles he must face as the Ghost Walker warmed me to him once again. He is still really just a boy, but he carries the greatest burdens in all of Outremer within his very body and soul.
Young Elisande is fast becoming as interesting a character as Marron, though. The first two Outremer books failed to divulge many of her secrets, but her character grows tremendously as she and her party find their way across the desert. The depth and range of her emotions and thoughts threaten to force Julianne, a strong female character in her own right, somewhat into the background for the time being.
I daresay that Brenchley's bold revelations regarding Marron at the end of Tower of the King's Daughter may have rubbed some readers the wrong way. It certainly forced me to step back and reappraise everything I had just read. I would urge all readers to forge ahead with the series, though. I was appalled by the dark secret that was revealed, but Marron reemerges as an extraordinarily deep, enigmatic and sympathetic soul in the pages of A Dark Way to Glory. Few fantasy writers can equal the power and richness of Chaz Brenchley's prose, and I am more excited than ever to see what this visionary author has in store for me in the remaining Outremer books.