The war between the Circlians and Pentadrians is over, but the cost has been high on both sides.
Although the architect of the White’s victory, Auraya feels no joy. Her days are spent trying to reconcile the Dreamweavers and the priesthood, while her sleep is filled with nightmares. The dead haunt her and the only one she trusts to help has vanished.
Still struggling to come to terms with the increasingly powerful memories of the long-dead Mirar, the Dreamweaver, Leiard, flees into the mountains with Emerahl, perhaps the last of the Wilds. Emerahl is powerfully gifted, and helps Leiard to make sense of his strange jumble of memories. What they discover will change his life, and the world, forever…
Last of the Wilds is the second book in the Age of the Five trilogy, after Priestess of the White. Where I had a hard time getting into the book with the first one in the series, with Last of the Wilds I got sucked in immediately. This was partly because it’s the second book in the series – the story doesn’t need as much set up, plus I wanted to know what happened next after the events of book one – and partly because the prologue was captivating and written from the point of view of one of my favourite characters of the book, Reivan.
One of the things I noted for Priestess of the White was the fact that because they are given no voice of their own, the Pentadrians remain mysterious. This mystery makes them seem far scarier that they perhaps are and more evil, because it allows the Circlians to ascribe all manner of nastiness to them, and neither the ordinary Circlians nor the reader know any better. In Last of the Wilds this ignorance is remedied through Reivan. Reivan is a Thinker, an inventor/scientist, who was drafted into the Pentadrian army. We meet her and the rest of the surviving Pentadrian army as they travel back from the battle that ended the last book. I loved Reivan’s voice and her enquiring mind; she’s analytical, logical and practical. At the same time, Reivan loves her gods and one of her major regrets is not having any Skills and so not being able to become a Servant of the gods. When she comes to the attention of Second Voice Imenja, she is unexpectedly given the opportunity to become a Servant regardless of being unSkilled and so we follow her into the Sanctuary and get to see the Pentadrian side of life, much as we got to know the Circlian side of life through Auraya in the previous book.
In many ways, Reivan is the Pentadrian mirror to Auraya. Both are young women elevated to unexpected positions and provide the reader with a window on the inner workings of their respective religions. Both have inquisitive minds and ask critical questions, both of themselves and others. They both encounter ‘new’ races—Auraya the Siyee and Reivan the Elai. It’ll be interesting to see how closely Reivan’s storyline will mirror Auraya’s in the next book, as it will mean some hard choices for Reivan, judging from those Auraya has to make in this one. It is difficult to discuss Auraya’s development in detail as it will contain too many spoilers for the book, but she makes some life-altering choices, which I really respected. Reivan and Auraya also reinforce the sense of similarity between the Circlian and Pentadrian religions and make it plain that all is not as it seems with the gods. At times Canavan makes this point a little too strongly, almost hitting the reader over the head with it, though that might just be my perception as I’d already read this book once before and as such already had some inkling of it.
Next to Reivan’s additional point of view, we also get new points of view from Mirar and from Imi. Both of them are familiar from the previous book, but in Last of the Wilds we get active points of view from them. Both of them give added perspectives, Mirar on the history of those who opposed the gods and Imi on Elai society and the Pentadrians. I really enjoyed these new viewpoints, especially Imi’s; they also give us more knowledge of the different cultures as we’re shown new places in Ithania. Together with Emerahl’s storyline, we get a comprehensive overview of Ithania’s map and peoples. The religious aspect is also deepened by the three of them. Mirar tells stories of the gods, that the gods might not want spread and so gives us more information, Imi learns about the Pentadrian gods, after knowing only the worship of Huan, and gives a refreshing perspective on inclusiveness – if they’re not harming anyone, why mind their existence – and Emerahl encounters yet a new form of religion during her travels, the cult of the Maker, which is basically moving toward a monotheistic form of worship. It’ll be interesting to learn what this development will mean for the Five, whether the Circlian or Pentadrian ones, and their peoples. Will it mean harmony, as they unite against it, or yet more strife?
As a second book Last of the Wilds is a strong entry in the series. In fact, I’d say I liked this book better than Priestess of the White as it’s more even-paced and moves the story on quite a bit. It’ll be fascinating to see where Canavan takes Ithania’s story, especially as I’ve never read the final book in the trilogy, Voice of the Gods, before. Canavan has set up some pretty major plot points to be resolved in this last book, such as the true nature of the Five, the fate of the Wilds, the uneasy peace between Circlians and Pentadrians, the rise of the Cult of the Maker and of course the fate of all of our main characters. I hope the ending is as good as I’m expecting, but if Last of the Wilds is any indication, Voice of the Gods will deliver a great ending.