Rowena Cory Daniells – Exile

Slowly losing himself to madness, King Charald has passed his verdict on the mystic Wyrds: banishment, by the first day of winter. Their leader, Imoshen, believes she has found a new home for her people, but many are still stranded, amidst the violence and turmoil gripping Chalcedonia. A reward is offered for their safe return, and greedy men turn to abduction.

Tobazim arrives in port, to ready the way for his people, and finds their ships have been stolen. Sorne, the king’s half-blood advisor, needs to find his sister and bring her to safety. Ronnyn and his family, living peacefully in the wilderness, are kidnapped by raiders eager for the reward.

Whether the ships are ready or not, the wyrds must leave soon; those who remain behind will be hunted down and executed. Time is running out for all of them.

Due to the nature of this trilogy – it’s closer to one big book divided in three parts, LoTR-style, than to three books in a continuous storyline – spoilers are inevitable, and while I strive to keep large spoilers to a minimum in my reviews, talking about Exile will spoil some things for Besieged. So if you don’t want to be spoiled at all, best close this review and start reading Besieged!

We return to the book with a prologue set some twelve, thirteen years before the ending of the last book, to introduce a new set of characters, and return to just after the closing of Besieged in the first chapter. Exile is more T’En focused through the additional storyline of Ronnyn and his family. Ronnyn is a T’En boy of Malaunje parents, who fled from the Celestial City, because they couldn’t bear to give him up to the Sisterhood. While living on their remote island, their family has grown to five children, three of which are T’En boys, and one more T’En child on the way. In some ways, Ronnyn’s arc mirrored Imoshen’s: raised in isolation on an island, hidden from both Mieren and T’En, struggling with a developing gift. However, where Imoshen was kept ignorant of the nature of her gifts purposely, in Ronnyn’s case this ignorance isn’t by choice, as his Malaunje parents just haven’t the knowledge to help him learn to control his gifts.

It’s when Ronnyn’s gift really starts to manifest, that this storyline became rather uncomfortable for me. As T’En power is addictive for Malaunje and can often have somewhat sexual connotations, the fact that he plays gift games with his sister turns almost a little incestuous and it’s only when she realises that Ronnyn could, and will, lose control, that Aravelle calls a halt to the games and makes Ronnyn promise to leave the island in the spring, so that he can get gift-trained by the T’En at Celestial City. Their kidnapping throws a wrench in these plans, however, and they all get taken to the T’En. I found this section of Ronnyn’s story rather hard to swallow, though it re-enforces the need for the reform of T’En society, since if his parents hadn’t dreaded losing him up to the sisterhood, he and Aravelle would never have been in this situation. Fortunately for me however, once Ronnyn and his family are kidnapped, this entire problem is subsumed by the fear and insecurity occasioned by it and I enjoyed this particular story arc.

While the main focus for the T’En in this book is getting ready for exile, this doesn’t come without a lot of political machinations and isn’t just about practicalities as you might expect. As Vittoryxe feared, Imoshen is named causare, but the manner in which the all-mothers, who are outnumbered six to nine by the all-fathers, get elected greatly amused me. Since there are two all-fathers who both want to be elected, the male votes are divided and Imoshen walks away with the position. There is also clearly a deepening of the resistance against the Covenant, which makes for some interesting alliances developing. Being sent into exile is obviously saddening, but to the reformers within T’En it is also an opportunity for change. Daniells explores this, not just from the viewpoint of those striving for change, but also those resistant to and frightened of it. This exploration is interesting and in the case of some, heartbreaking. However, the optimism of those forging ahead to make the best of this new situation makes the exile seem exciting and full of potential, rather than the end of a people and left me hopeful, rather than discouraged.

Of course there is not just T’En politicking, King Charald’s court is teeming with it as well. The king is in his dotage and failing quickly, which leaves the field wide open for his barons to scheme to take the throne from his young son. I loved that we have an added point of view in the court in the form of Queen Jaraille, who turns out to be possessed of a steel inner core when it comes to protecting her son. She stole the Mieren show for me and is my favourite Mieren character of the series so far. The linchpin between the two races is Sorne; he not only regains his close position to the king, he also gains the trust of the T’En.  Almost in spite of himself, Sorne wants to not only do right by his people, the T’En, but also by his Mieren friends. I liked the inner conflict this creates for him, though it’s never really in doubt where his loyalties truly lie.

As opposed to Besieged, which covered almost three decades, Exile takes place in a limited time frame of about a year to eighteen months at the most. This tightens the focus, but doesn’t rush the pace of the narrative. I really liked this continuation of The Outcast Chronicles; in fact I wanted to pick up the final volume in the trilogy immediately, because I wanted to know how it ends. Unfortunately the final instalment won’t be out until next month, so I’ll have to be patient. Fortunately for you, however, this gives you time to catch up in time for that final release in The Outcast Chronicles. Exile is an excellent continuation of an intriguing series and Daniells is quickly becoming a must-read author. Exile was released by Solaris this week and should be available from all the usual venues.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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