Marc Turner keeps getting better and better. I have enjoyed each of his books more than the previous one, and Red Tide, the third installment of The Chronicles of Exile beats the two previous outings, good as they were.
The various subplots are getting more convoluted even as an overriding plot is starting to emerge. The characters continue to develop. Some are questioning their current roles or lamenting past actions. Several of the players that you assume are the good guys have dark pasts and some of the bad guys may be better than expected, or at least have more comprehensible and reasonable motives.
Meanwhile the implied threat of a major new player on the scene is realized and they seem much more evil than expected. Portions of their overall goals remain quite murky. This will impact most, but not all of the major characters that have been introduced so far. I think that one of the author’s skills is that he makes you care about many of the characters and wonder about many others. There are one or two that remain ciphers and I suspect that they will be given greater roles in future books.
Many of the characters from both When the Heavens Fall and Dragon Hunters are present and a host of new ones, some anticipated but many that are not. I noticed that I had not previously mentioned any of the characters by name, oops. The previously unmet Emperor of Erin Elal, Avallon Delamar, finally makes an appearance and makes you question some but not all of the previous impressions you have of him. He is ruthless but now maybe not evil. Mazana Creed of the Storm Lords is back and she is slowly changing as a dead god’s influence increase. Senar Sol is back as a Guardian of Erin Elal who is questioning all that he has believed. The son of the warlord of the Rubyholt Islands, Galantas Galair, is an interesting man as he plans to usurp his father’s position and raise the status of the islands. The evil mage Hex is a great addition as is the return of at least one character that was presumed dead. And we finally meet the stone-skins as a nation. There are also some that are just fun to read about such as Twist, the second in command of a mercenary force.
The tone of the characters’ conversations has changed subtly, with more wit, wry asides and sarcasm than before, and I find that very appealing. It helps differentiate them as well as further develops their individual characteristics and traits.
Another feature of the book is that when characters argue or discuss issues, they usually present well thought opinions and considers those that they are presented with. So often in other books one side presents a bombshell and the other is “wow, let me think about that,” or go with the because I say so route. Here powerful people who know that all of their actions will have consequences have obviously considered many of the possible ones, and have solid counter arguments.
The pacing is very nice as well, and as in the other two it builds to a frenetic crescendo. As in Dragon Hunters the action takes place over different locations and is involving even more people and nations.
Turner leaves open a number of avenues for future books that could be side projects. How a continent became an archipelago, ancient wars between a variety of races, the history behind the different immortals and gods and even a general overview of the planet.
It is clear that the series has not ended and as far as I can find the author has not said how long it will go. I do not think that he can close it out in one more volume so it looks like there will be a number of books to look forward to in the coming years.
Several of the recent fantasy series that I have read started strong in the first book and then have petered out after the first volume, as if the author used up all of his original ideas, and yet Turner seems to be increasingly inventive. For instance a ship has a demon’s soul embedded in it and the demon influences how a crew feels, magnifying fear or driving them to berserker status. Overall it was a minor thing but it shows how he continually expands and develops his world.
The sad part is now I am caught up with the series and will have to wait until the next installment. This will be like the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, where I was checking Amazon weekly to see if the next volume was available, over the course of several years!