July 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Redeeming The Lost by Elizabeth Kerner
Tor HCVR: ISBN 0312890656 PubDate: 07/01/04
Review by Madeline Yeh

400 pgs. List price $25.95
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Redeeming the Lost is the third book in a fascinating story of humans and demons and dragons. The first two books are Song In Silence and The Lesser Kindred. A great many characters have already been introduced before the start of the third book, and a rather complicated story is well underway. The story is told in the first person by many of the characters in this book, while several fantasy books written in the first person, but these are the only ones I can think of which are written in quite this style. The author provides neither a synopsis of the earlier story nor a list of characters. With these omissions, the book can definitely not stand alone. A reader might be able to skip the second book and still make sense of this novel, but the first is mandatory. Here follows a partial list of the voices in the book.

Character list -- speaking only
Lanen Kaelar -- human, married to Varien
Varien, Akhor, Khordeshkhistriakhor -- dragon king, turned into a human
Jamie -- human, Lanenís foster father
Maran Vena -- human, mother of Lanen
Marik -- human, villain, real father of Lanen
Berys -- human, villain, demon master
Shikrar, Hadreshikar -- dragon, eldest, friend of Lanen
Idai -- dragon
Will, Willem -- human, foster father of Salera
Rella -- human
Salera -- lesser dragon
Vilkas -- human healer
Aral -- human healer

SPOILERS, Here is a quick summary of the events and characters in the first two books here. Lanen Kaelar, a young human woman, leaves home after her stepfather dies and travels to the dragon island. She meets and converse with a dragon, Akhor who finds humans oddly fascinating. They fall in love, and by some miracle Akhor changes into a human. As a human, Akhor calls himself Varien. They return to Lanenís home. Later the two of them meet some of the ďLesser KindredĒ, descendents of the dragons who have become non sentient animals. They work another miracle and raise these dragons to sentience. Lanen and Akhorís life and adventures during these two books are complicated by attacks from various demons and evil mages. Lanenís real father, Marik, wants to give Lanen to the demons.

When this novel starts, the true dragons have left their island due to a volcano, and have landed on the mainland. The lesser dragons have just awaken to sentience. Lanen is imprisoned in a dungeon.

As the story unfolds, Lanen is rescued. An evil human mage uses demons to destroy the University and kill most of the human mages. The Demonlord. who had nearly exterminated the great dragons centuries earlier, reappears in the shape of a immense stone dragon. The humans, great dragons, lesser dragons and even some once dead dragons act together to rescue Lanen and then destroy the demon lord.

This is a good story and well crafted. Each of the narrators is a clear and separate individual, with their own concerns and biases. The physical differences between dragons and humans is a source of amusement and frustration. The narratorsí concerns scurry from the imminent destruction of the world, to their childrenís antics, to getting a hot supper, to minor quarrels with friends and lovers. There is a refreshing clarity, and lack of pomposity and stereotypes in the story. The dragons are neither brute animals, nor all wise elders. They display individual characteristics from patience to humor to recklessness. The powerful mage Vilkas goes from lost uncertainty to overwhelming arrogance to a temper tantrum worthy of a frustrated toddler. The book progresses in a nice clear linear fashion, with only a few digressions to fill in the history. The author uses the dragonís vocabulary sparingly and to good affect in the story, giving a distinct foreign tone to their conversation. The action is fairly fast and vigorous.

This is a very odd way of telling a story, but it works amazingly well. Seeing the action from multiple viewpoints gives depth perception to the action. It is primarily an action story. The universe is a fairly sketchy, vaguely generic fantasy world. There are kings and merchants, universities, barges and sailing ships, castles and taverns and small villages, but these are a bland background to some very vivid characters. It is barely mentioned that four kings exist, and they neither appear, nor does anyone worry about them at all. The characters however are very vivid. I like the author showing that all the narrators have an internal life. Aral is not only a remarkable mage and healer, but a teenager with an unreciprocated crush on her partner. She knows it, he knows it, and they have a mutual agreement never to talk about it. The eldest of the dragons is an indulgent father and a doting grandfather. There are little personal touches that really make the characters believable. Being held in the hands of a flying dragon might be fast and exciting, but its also cold and wet and scary. The writing style is excellent, although I canít tell you why. I know bad writing when it bites me and this book is well written.

This is a good book and gives a clear conclusion to the earlier two stories. The author could write more about these characters but it isnít neccesary.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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