John C. Wright,
Titans of Chaos
(Tor, 2007)

Titans of Chaos, the final installment in John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, brings the story of Amelia Armstrong Windrose and her fellow orphans -- actually hostages under the control of the Olympian gods after the last war between the gods and the Titans -- to a resolution.

The storyline is the least part of the novel, since it's really nothing more than the working out of the basic plot, moving from crisis to crisis until the orphans achieve a victory, of sorts. (For more on this, see Fugitives of Chaos.)

The strength of this book, and in retrospect of the entire series, is the gradual unfolding of character, even more remarkable because Wright gives us insights not only into the characters as they exist at any given moment, but also reveals their development -- maturation, actually -- through the course of events. We see not only that they discover more of their powers, but also that they discover what I can only call "human" resources in themselves. This is most apparent in Amelia, of course, since she is the narrator and the major focus of the story, but we also see it in Vanity, Colin, Quentin and even Victor. There are even revelations about the gods, or at least some of them, which is another saving grace: gods are too easily left to remain as cartoons, but by giving a human dimension to such as Headmaster Boggin -- also known as Boreas -- Wright makes them credible as characters.

Regrettably, Wright gives in to the temptation to describe in excruciating detail just exactly how these powers manifest -- complete with visuals and sound effects -- during climactic action scenes, which otherwise would keep us on the edge of our seats. I've never understood this tendency to interrupt the action to ruminate on what it all means, or to give us blow-by-blow descriptions of nonessential details, or to have someone explain to us why this is all happening. There's only one possible result: momentum dies. I've always found it a clear signal of the death of pacing when I find myself skimming sections on a first reading: the story is not holding my attention. It is particularly disastrous when the skimming is happening in places where my attention should be riveted to the page.

On the whole, however, I have to give the entire series high marks. Although a bit talky, the talk is entertaining in itself, and the milieu is certainly original enough -- and fleshed out enough as the story progresses -- to offer something new and engaging.

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review by
Robert M. Tilendis

18 October 2008

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