David B. Coe,
(Tor, 2001)

Eagle-Sage completes David B. Coe's LonTobyn Chronicle and is the third book of a trilogy, the first two books of which are Children of Amarid and Outlanders.

By the beginning of Eagle-Sage, the former enemy countries of technology-based Lon-Ser and magic-based Tobyn-Ser have entered into a truce. Tobyn-Ser has been the beneficiary of technological devices from Lon-Ser as well. But another kind of trouble is brewing within Tobyn-Ser.

Hawk-Mage Jaryd, long "unbound" since the death of his hawk familiar, binds with an eagle, making him an Eagle-Sage and leader of the Order of mages. But an eagle is a harbinger of war, and it is with a heavy heart that Jaryd and his family travel to Amarid, the headquarters city for the Order, to gather the mages and try to interpret what the eagle means.

Does it mean civil war? Are the mages of the League, which splintered from the Order, going to openly oppose the Order? Does the threat come from the free mages, those who affiliate with neither the Order nor the League? Is it the Temple Keepers whose rush to harvest the forests of Tobyn-Ser have set the mages even more at odds? When the answer comes, however, Jaryd and the rest know what they must do to save the land.

Meanwhile, in Lon-Ser, Melyor, the Sovereign of Bragor-Nal ahs her own problems to deal with -- intrigue, assassination attempts and betrayal, for starters. The two narratives are tied together with excepts of letters between Melor and Orris, an itinerant mage belonging to the Order.

A good test of a writer's mettle is how well a book in a series or trilogy stands alone. There should be enough back story so that the reader understands the background and plot, but ideally, the information should be woven into the story, not presented through endless expository dialogue. Some authors use a historical preface to bring the reader up to date, and that is fine. Coe, however, lets the story grow naturally, providing information without beating the reader over the head, and the epistolary excerpts also serve to fill in the gaps nicely.

The characterization is uneven with some characters better developed than others. Still, no one is either Very Very Good or Mustache Twirling Bad. The heroes are capable of pettiness and foibles, and while the archvillain is not a nice person at all, he does have recognizably human traits and weaknesses. The Lon-Ser plot is tighter and has more focus, but it does cover less territory both spatially and in terms of the narrative.

This is Coe's first trilogy, and the quality of the last volume is enough to make me want to go back and read the first two books. The story is nicely told and better than many in the genre, and the flaws are those which I would expect would disappear with time and experience. Overall, whether you start at the beginning or jump straight into Eagle-Sage, you're in for a solid and enjoyable reading experience.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 28 April 2002

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