C.L. Talmadge,
The Green Stone of Healing #2: Fallout
(Booklocker, 2008)

This is a sequel to The Green Stone of Healing: The Vision, in which we were introduced to the fictional kingdom of Kronos and a talented, yet semi-outcast physician named Helen.

In this sequel, the story deals mainly with the fallout, or aftermath of the events in the first book. Helen continues to display her acumen as a physician, including trying to help her long-time friend, Prince Matthew, recover from the "punishment" (i.e., whipping that sounds a lot like torture) he received, partly in response to his support of Helen.

Another major theme in the book involves the political intrigues and machinations in the kingdom of Kronos, including a failed poisoning of the king, legal proceedings against Helen's father, arranged marriages and power-jockeying. This aspect reminded me some of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice & Fire series or Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy.

The biggest theme, though, involves Helen and her father trying to figure each other out, let down their guards and find out how they can build a relationship without destroying themselves politically and without destroying each other. They both loved Helen's mother and neither can handle how angry he or she is over Miriam not being there anymore.

In some ways, this plays out as a fantasy version of a political soap opera, with all the machinations and triangles and alliances one would look for in that genre. What saves it, to some extent, is the alien nature of the culture, the strength of the characterizations, and the one character, Maguari, who is a Mist-Weaver. A Mist-Weaver is a seemingly timeless and wise being who appears to a small number of people, including Helen in this case, to give advice and guidance. I would have liked to have seen much more of Maguari, and maybe other Mist-Weavers, in what appears to be an effort to prevent this society, and possibly this fictional world, from self-destruction.

While one strength of the book is the characterizations, Helen and her father are each so torn about trying to open up to each other that that idea eventually gets a bit thin. The political intrigue part is good, and Prince Seti and Malachi make good villains. The alien nature of the culture is also a good aspect of the novel.

But the characters are overwrought, the pace gets bogged down at times and there is not enough new material in this sequel. Many ideas that were made clear in the first book get re-stated, once or several times. This all distracts from a good story that is buried beneath the melodrama and the repetition.

I would also have appreciated two things, as appendices. I know that graphics are not easy, or cheap, to add to a book, but a simple line-drawing map of the land would have helped. The other thing that would have helped was a social hierarchy chart, like a company's table of organization. It would have been good to have these two things, right from the first book in the series. Instead, there is a glossary of names and terms used in the books. I started reading this, in the first book, but quickly stopped, as I felt that it was revealing so much about the personal relationships between the characters, that it was going to spoil the story. I guess I am comparing these books to what is probably today's "gold standard" in fantasy epic series, George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice & Fire books.

review by
Chris McCallister

12 September 2009

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