Kate Elliott,
The Gathering Storm
(DAW, 2003)

The Gathering Storm is the fifth book in Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series. It begins where the previous book, Child of Flame, ends.

Liath at last knows the truth of her heritage and has found the spark of power her father locked away from her for her own safety. She has met her family and found wings. Returning from her journey through the spheres, she finds that although for her only days have passed, in the world where her husband and daughter live, four long years have gone by.

Prince Sanglant has made a dangerous deal with his enemy Prince Bulkezu of the Quman. In exchange for freedom, Bulkezu has agreed to lead Sanglant into the grasslands. There, Sanglant hopes to find gryphons, for their feathers negate magic, and it is magic that Sanglant must be able to combat.

Having consolidated his power, the Eika chieftain Stronghand sailed for the island nation of Alba, there to begin forging his empire. And Alain, formerly a nameless man elevated to count and thrown back down again, has once more been snatched from certain death and returned to the time in which he was born. Brokenhearted, he resolves to enter the Church to which he was promised at his birth.

And in the Holy City, Mother Anne, now leader of that same Church, and her Seven Sleepers make their plans, for only months are left before they cast the ancient magic, the magic that ripped the world apart 2,000 years ago, the magic that killed Alain's wife, the magic that, if they cast it a second time, will destroy the world.

It is amazing how well Kate Elliott manages to juggle her various storylines without dropping anything; I don't remember a single detail that doesn't tie in with the rest of the vast story laid out in this series. As if to demonstrate how small the world can be, a minor character (a soldier or servant) in one storyline will run into the principal character from another storyline, but in a way that seems likely, not contrived. Her characterizations are well-done, especially golden boy Father Hugh, who remains a mystery, possibly even to himself. The Gathering Storm has more of a sense of urgency to it than the preceding four volumes of the series, partly because all of the diverse storylines are building toward the final confrontation between Liath and Sanglant and the forces controlled by Mother Anne and the Seven Sleepers.

The Gathering Storm is definitely not the place to start the series -- these are not just interconnected books, but a single, epic story divided into sections. I am very much looking forward to seeing what comes next.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 9 August 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.