Christopher Rowley,
Doom's Break:
The Third Book of Arna

(Roc, 2002)

Christopher Rowley's Books of Arna number among the best works of fantasy I have ever read. These are books full of rich characterization, vibrant personalities, great evil, even greater heroism, stunning military conflicts, love, hope, redemption -- the list goes on and on. Doom's Break: The Third Book of Arna takes the series to a stratospheric new level, as readers witness the long-awaited battle that will decide the fate of not only Arna but Shasht (the enemy's homeland) itself.

Arna is a peaceful land inhabited by mots, mors and other intelligent creatures, but the invading armies of Man came seeking the annihilation of the "fornicating monkeys" and the colonization of their fertile land. The mots and their kind have lived in peace since the most ancient of days, knowing nothing of war beyond the legends told of Man the Cruel. They do not even know that men still exist anywhere on their world, for the ancient texts state that the men of old disappeared, having polluted and destroyed their environment while killing themselves off in a series of never-ending wars. Some mots now question the old legends, asking if man ever really existed. For these reasons, the mots of the land are woefully unprepared for any attack, especially from a well-trained, experienced and murderous party of men.

Our principal protagonist, Thru Gillo, wants nothing more than to establish himself as a gifted weaver, marry and settle down with Nuza, the mor he loves. The war brought to the Land by the men of Shasht changes Thru's world drastically. As this third book in the series opens, the war has entered its fifth, dramatic and decisive year. Thru Gillo, one of the Land's best warriors, is on his way back from captivity in Shasht alongside his female human friend Simona of Gsekk and the brother of the Shashti emperor. Another fleet carries the emperor himself (recently overthrown by the priests who, under the command of the mysterious and powerful Old One, really run the land of Shasht) as well as Thru's lost love Nuza. The emperor and his supporters come to Arna to stop the colonial war of extermination, after which point they plan to return home to destroy the priests and restore the imperial government. Suddenly, man and mot must put aside their hatred of one another and work together to thwart a common enemy in the form of the Old One, his malicious priests and an arsenal of unconventional weapons that neither mot nor man has ever faced before. Once the final battles get underway in the land of Arna, the reader is treated to a vivid, fascinating description of the bloody conflict that leaves many dead on both sides. The strategies employed by the opposing forces and the constant movements of soldiers to alternately attack and then hold the lines are mesmerizing in their detail and visual clarity. I felt as if I were there on the battlefields myself watching the epic struggle take place before my very eyes.

There are many wonderful characters to be met in Rowley's tale; I feel as if I know many of them personally. Thru Gillo is the epitome of heroism, Simona of Gsekk stands out as a brave young woman who risks everything on several occasions in order to live her own life rather than one dictated to her by any man. General Toshak, leader of the mot army, represents everything a good leader should be. The one and only weakness of the novel comes in the epilogue: in the book's concluding chapters, one important character seemed to fall by the wayside, and Rowley seemingly attempts to compensate for this by quickly addressing the character's future in the epilogue; unfortunately, this last-minute revelation really doesn't seem to fit this character, at least to my mind.

On the surface, Doom's Break: The Third Book of Arna is a captivating work of fantasy, but much more lies beyond the surface. Rowley's description of Man the Cruel essentially holds a mirror up to the eyes of society today, calling upon us to learn to live and work together with our fellow man. For me, this novel represents fantasy at its very best.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 17 April 2004

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