Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Woodring Stover
Paperback - 736 pages 1 Ed edition (April 3, 2001) 
Del Rey; ISBN: 0345421442
Review by EJ McClure

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In Blade Of Tyshalle Matthew Stover has created a compelling world of gods and heroes that sets a new high-water mark for epic fantasy.  This sprawling blockbuster of a book has it all:  dazzling action, vivid characterization, spectacular magic, and a riveting plot that will keep you up long past bedtime.  The long-awaited sequel to Heroes Die is my pick for book of the year.

Kris Hansen is on top of the world.  Young, handsome and talented, he is only months from his final exams at the Studio Conservatory.  He yearns to become a mage on Overworld, a land of myth and magic accessible by technology that is controlled by the entertainment industry.  But the price of admission is tutoring Hari Michaelson to pass the Battle Magick exam.  It is a daunting assignment.  Hari is a Labor caste thug, a punk doomed to failure by his emotional instability.  How can Kris coach this aggressive, sarcastic boy in the fine control needed for control of Flow, the source of all magic on Overworld?  But as it turns out, Kris is the one who has some brutal lessons in store for him, and what he learns will make him decide that being an Actor for the amusement of the Leisure caste is not enough.   

Against all odds, though, Hari Michaelson succeeds.  Through indomitable will and vicious cunning he becomes the most popular Actor ever cast in a virtual-reality Adventure.  For over a quarter century Hari dominates the leisure industry as Caine, warrior and assassin.  Mortal enemy of the Emperor of Ankhana.  Lover of the goddess Pallas Ril.  One spectacular success follows another until a day in Victory Stadium in Ankhana, when murder leads to transfiguration, and a young boy named Raithe looses both his parents in the resulting mayhem and bloodshed.  From that loss is forged Raithe’s steely desire for revenge that will devastate both earth and Overworld.

Seven years later, half crippled and half drunk, Hari realizes that he is more than halfway to failure as an Administrator.  Sitting in his wheelchair, staring at balance sheets that bleed red ink, haunted by nightmares of defeat, Hari comes to understand that mere survival is not enough.  Against his will, he finds himself drawn to Tan’elKoth, the exiled god-emperor of Ankhana, the only man alive who treats him like he is still Caine, the Blade of Tyshalle. 

When Hari finds out that the Studio is engaging in biological warfare on Overworld, he takes his evidence to Tan’elKoth in a desperate gamble that the god-emperor loves Ankhana enough to set aside their old enmity and help Hari avert disaster.  He is wrong.  Hari’s enemies strike with deadly precision, targeting his reputation, his ailing father, his beloved Pallas Ril, and her innocent daughter.  With cunning malice they use Hari to bait the trap that destroys those he loves best.  Raithe achieves his revenge to the fullest extent imaginable, but he makes one mistake.  He leaves Hari alive to suffer. 

Blade Of Tyshalle is world-building at its finest.  The plot loops deftly through time, pulling the narrative threads into a Gordian knot of chance and destiny.  Every choice leads to irrevocable consequences.  “We are the sum of our scars,” the elven mage Deliann tells Caine. 

Stover does not allow himself gratuitous descriptions or meandering soliloquies.  Dialogue crisply defines character.  The prose is lean and sinewy.  Every detail has purpose.  Every scene heightens the dramatic tension as the reader begins to grasp just how cataclysmic the consequences of Hari’s failure could be for both worlds.  A woman blinded by passion, a man consumed by rage, and a god shattered by betrayal are bound so tightly no blade can sever their fates, not even that of the Deathgod, Tyshalle. 

A disciplined writer, Stover does not make the novice’s mistake of falling in love with his technology or his characters, but moves with toward his breath-taking conclusion with the precision of a master craftsman.  The final confrontation between a god who cannot forgive and a hero who cannot quit is unforgettable.   May this immensely talented author have a long and successful career.