July 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
columns - events - features - booksmedia        home  /  Join Mailing List

The Wanderer by Cherry Wilder and Katya Reimann
Tor HCVR: ISBN 0312874057 PubDate: 05/01/04
Review by Madeleine Yeh

400 pgs. List price $ 27.95
Buy this book and support SFRevu at Amazon US / Amazon UK

When I first saw this book, I grabbed it immediately. A long time ago, there were three rather odd fantasy novels, which gave glimpses into a strange and original fantasy world where giants, and dwarfs, and wizards roamed the earth. Where women and men could both serve as soldiers, and magic was a rare but accepted part of the world. These three books, A Princess Of The Chameln, Yorath The Wolf and The Summerís King told the stories of three cousins, all three children of the royal houses. These were published in 1984, 1984, and 1986 and it must have been over a decade since I last read them. I still remember a surprising amount of detail. They were very good, with strong characters and a vivid and well drawn world. There was always an incomplete feel to them. The whole trilogy felt like excerpts from a much longer history, as if someone had written the story of only three Presidents.

The story that had always seemed the most incomplete was that of Yorath the Wolf. It starts out like the classic story of the young king, raised in obscurity. King Arthur is a typical example. An old wizard had stolen Yorath, only son of Prince Gol. Yorath was raised in an isolated rural area, became a soldier, and a hero and a general. At the end of the books he is living in happy obscurity with his wife and son. Not a classic ending for the story of the young hero.

The Wanderer was a completely unexpected return to this world when I had never even hoped for a sequel. I thought Cherry Wilder was one of those authors who delighted in tormenting her readers, or was too busy exploring new universes, or new characters or new styles to revisit old ones. Iíve read other books by Cherry Wilder, and they are mainly good, but not as original as The Rulers Of Hylor trilogy. Unhappily Cherry Wilder died in 2002, and The Wanderer is a posthumous collaboration with Katya Reimann. Fortunately, Ms. Reimann turns out to be an excellent choice for continuing the story and the collaboration should prompt readers of either author to pursue the writings of both.

The Wanderer tells the story of a girl from a poor croft, who sets out to become a battle maid, a kedran. This book is set some twelve years after the end of The Summer King, and about 17 years after the death of the great hero Yorath Duaring. Gael Maddoc has been raised on stories of this great and legendary hero. She is eager to learn a soldierís trade and serve with in the company that he had originally raised. After her training, she takes service with another of the great lords of EastMark and travels to a far off land. There she runs into more magic and adventure. After returning home she finds more adventure and magic, eventually working for the lords of the Shee.

The authors interweave Gaelís story with the legends and history of Hylor. The story ranges over many of the lands of Hylor, from the poor hill farms of Coombe, to the hot desert, the plains of Chameln and the magical land of Eildon. This book is very uneven, some parts are very good, the dialogue and the scenery descriptions are excellent. The people range from poor farmers, to rich merchants, to arrogant nobles, to great rulers, and obsessive scribes. Other parts of the book read more like a history than a novel, describing but not really sharing the characterís interior life. Gael goes from an illiterate, parochial farm girl to a kedran captain; from hiding in the back to dealing with kings. The book does not share her thoughts and feelings as she grows from one person to another. Tamora Pierce has written stories taking girls from childhood to established knights in which the main focus is the growth of the heroine. This book jumps around. Sometimes the focus is on an adventure, sometimes on a jest, sometimes on history and magic, and sometimes on the surroundings. There is a three chapter Interlude just before Chapter X. In that interlude Queen Tanit puts on an ice blue necklace. In Chapter X, Gael delivers the necklace to the Queen Tanitís wedding celebration. Gael notes an air of poverty and wretchedness about an old knightís keep. Granted that she had seen wealth and luxury elsewhere, but this seems an odd observation from a poor farmerís daughter, especially as the keep still boasts mirrors, beds with thick hangings, warming pans, candles, stables and a separate kitchen.

All in all this is a very good book, if a little uneven. Read it. If you can find them, read the first three books too. The world is wonderful. The interleaving of history and mythology is fine. The characters are a bit flat, more heroic figures than real people. but there are odd bits of dialogue and character that are very good and very real.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
columns - events - features - booksmedia        home  /  Join Mailing List