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Fractured wars are being fought across the lands with no real aim. The Thanes in power are finally starting to realise that the Naky'rim Aeglyss is the real threat to the World and beyond. Kanin, embittered by the loss of his beloved sister gathers the few people he can trust and in his hatred aims to kill Aeglyss even if it costs him everything. Meanwhile Orisian, a reluctant young Thane rallies his people and marches toward Aeglyss with desperate hope, a weapon forged by an unknown group which might defeat him. Will Kanin or Orisian succeed? As the World descends into madness the people depend on it.
As fantasy trilogies go, Brian Ruckley's "Godless World" series is up there with the best. It compares favourably with such classics as George Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire". Even whispers of it being up there with Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series are not to far off the mark. "Fall of Thanes" is the conclusion to Ruckley's trilogy and he does well to just about avoid that "Return of the Jedi" syndrome that many authors face when winding up a story that has engrossed and compelled a large audience.
Despite a fascinating and rich plot, this trilogy has always been about following a rich tapestry of characters and "Fall of Thanes" is no exception. As an avid fan of the series I fell in love with lead characters such as young Thane Orisian from the very beginning. However, what makes Ruckley stand out as a great writer is that he has a knack of making the reader care what happens about all the characters good or bad as they all have their individual journeys and tales to tell. Their anguish is my anguish, their triumphs feel like my triumphs. This marks "Fall of Thanes" out as both the most depressing and uplifting novel of the series as we learn the final fate of characters and are devastated by the often surprising consequences.
Often Shakespearian in it's levels of tragedy and tales of unspoken love and loss the writing throughout is poetic and touching. There are some beautiful moments here but there is also a lot of morbidity. Ultimately a story of hope it might take a long time to realise this which makes "Fall of Thanes" a bit of a trial at times. Despite being engaged throughout it is a test of endurance largely thanks to Ruckley's patented slow plot revelations and long, heavy dialogue. The whole series has been one of the World going to hell but it was still a surprise that at its very conclusion, I still found myself having to dig deep for the message of hope.
However, this doesn't detract from the fact that this is a fitting end to a great series. As with the previous two books, this is more thoughtful than fighting fantasy. There is plenty of bloody battles here but as always it is interspersed with meaningful dialogue and vivid imagery. Without doubt one of the most intelligent series you will read, this trilogy is ended perfectly if not entirely happily by "Fall of Thanes" and it comes highly recommended.
Thus far, Brian Ruckley's ''Godless World'' trilogy has been a little slow moving, but drawn with wonderful characters that have helped the story along. Whilst this may work well for earlier parts of a trilogy, I feared that the slow pace of events may not work so well in leading up to the final confrontation that so many of these stories seem to lead to.
The Godless world is descending into a kind of insanity. All order is breaking down and members of both the True Bloods and the Black Road are fighting amongst themselves. There is rioting in the streets and the armies of both sides have taken to mindless slaughter rather than organised conquest. Under Aeglyss' command, the Black Road armies are strengthening and his power is increasing as his body weakens. His control of the Shadow Chancellor is a step towards ending the rule of the Thanes by murdering the greatest among them.
The only people who seem to be immune to the world's madness are Orisian and his group of bodyguards, who are taking K'rina, Aeglyss' foster mother to a place where he cannot reach her. Although not succumbing to the violent madness that many are, Orisian is haunted by ghosts from his past. His sister, held captive far from him is in more tangible danger, as she is being held in the palace of the Shadow Chancellor, who is now Aeglyss in all but body.
The incipient madness creeping through the minds of both sides helps blurs the lines between good and evil once more here, as in the earlier parts. This did cause a little confusion early in the book as I tried to remember which bloods were the True Bloods and which with the Black Road. All the way through the trilogy, Ruckley has blurred the line between the two sides which is a little confusing early on in the story.
Once you get to know the characters, or in my case, rediscover the characters this ceases to be as much of an issue. As with the earlier books of the trilogy, the individual characters are very well drawn and it's usually very obvious from their mannerisms which one you're following. This has been the great strength in Ruckley's writing and that certainly hasn't changed. What helps is that with the end approaching, there aren't quite so many plot strands to follow this time around, which means the breaks between following an individual character tend to be shorter and there is less opportunity to lose track of who some of them are.
One aspect that I don't recall spotting in the earlier parts of the story was that there are some stunning passages of writing here. I don't mean in terms of the story, which has always been very strong, but just some pieces of literature so good they momentarily stunned me. One section where a True Blood army is over-run thanks in part to Aeglyss' power, a character's death is described through his own eyes, which was a superb piece of writing. There were some very emotional pieces quite late on in the story which were also highly impressive, as unexpected as they were given much of what had gone before. In parts, it becomes obvious that Ruckley is not merely a gifted storyteller, but also a very talented writer.
A couple of aspects did take the edge off the story slightly for me. The whole trilogy has been very slow-paced and that continued here. Given that we are reaching the end of a trilogy, I was expecting events to move on a little quicker, but there was no increase in pace and even the conclusion was told at the same leisurely pace, which was a minor disappointment. I was also slightly disappointed with the ending, which was certainly different from the norm, but much lower key than expected. In a trilogy where good and evil were clashing and one side had to be defeated, the end here seemed quite weak almost as if the story ran out, rather than reached a conclusion.
That said, ''Fall of Thanes'' and indeed the whole ''Godless World'' trilogy are certainly worth reading. Once the characters have settled into their places in your mind and you've become accustomed to the slower pace of the story, the strength of the characters comes to the fore and that's where Ruckley's brilliance lies. This is a well-written story acted out by wonderfully drawn characters and whilst aspects of it may not be perfect, it's a very good read for fans of the genre and a very good value purchase with prices from as little as 89 pence from the Amazon Marketplace.
This is a slightly amended version of a review first published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk