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Myrren's Gift: The Quickening Book One by Fiona McIntosh
Review by Gayle Surrette
Eos Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0060747560
Date: 01 March, 2005 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Myrren's Gift is book one of The Quickening trilogy. Fantasy seems to come in three book packages where book one sets up the world, introduces the players, and gives the push that sets the plot in motion. Book two is then a continuation of the plot set up and a slow ramping up of the tension. Book three then pulls all the various threads together, ties up the loose ends, and sees our hero victorious over the obstacles that have been strewn in his path. In this case Myrren's Gift does it's job well. You're pulled into the story and end the book wishing somehow you could have the other two books sitting on your night stand because waiting to find out what happens next is the worst part of this fantasy story.

Myrren's Gift opens with a battle. The kingdoms of Morgravia and Briavel have been fighting for so long that no one truly remembers why they are fighting anymore. But the King of Morgravia's General, Fergys Thirsk, is mortally wounded and the Morgravian troops are pulled back. Enough soldiers have died on both sides to insure some years of peace. King Magnus promises Fergys that he will care for his children and see that Fergys' son, Wyl Thirsk, is trained for his job as the future leader of the Morgravian army.

The King also hopes that Wyl will become friends with his own son Celimus, who will one day rule. Magnus and Fergys were two parts of a whole and ruled the country well. But the King's son hates his father and is much more his mother's child than his father's. He is willful, headstrong, proud, and cruel. While Wyl tolerates Celimus; he'll never be his friend.

Wyl copes with the challenges of learning to deal with Celimus, trains for leadership of the army and in the process becomes a tactical specialist. However, when Celimus tricks him into attending the questioning of a witch, Myrren, before her burning, Wyl can no longer look away from the ugly side of his country and the harm that political expediency can cause in the name of smoothing things over. He supports Myrren during her trial as best he can and promises to take care of her dog. For years, Wyl thinks that Myrren's gift is the dog, which becomes his faithful companion.

In the way of things, kings die and princes become kings. Everything changes for Wyl and the people of Morgravia. Celimus has ambitions and Wyl does not figure in his plans except as an obstacle. The old king extracts a promise from Wyl to see his people taken care of before he dies. Wyl must find his way among his few options. He must look into his heart and without wishful thinking he must find a way to see that his country and its people thrive even if that path takes him toward treason and death.

There's a lot of potential in this story. There are no easy answers. Wyl must remain true to his beliefs and his promises while his worldview is shaken again and again as he strives to do what is right. While this book is frustrating; Wyl pushes away help and fails to think tactically or even with common sense. The main character is a trained tactician yet can't seem to string two coherent thoughts together to make any kind of plan as he drifts along. Yet the potential of the story line and the vivid writing keeps you reading.

Recommended for those who love fantasy.

Our Readers Respond

From: Kevin Stevens:
    I think that the second to last paragraph of this review needs to be highlighted. 'This book is frustrating' is an understatement. A good novel of any genre, including fantasy, must be character driven and Wyl consistently 'fails to think tactically or even with common sense'. Just like in any bad television soap his personality changes at the author's whim and his decisions make such little sense it completely ruins what was such a good idea. In an interview Fiona McIntosh stated that she didn't plan her books, she sits down to write and sees where the characters take her. This lack of planning is obvious throughout the whole trilogy with people constantly getting thrown around the world to different locations for the flimsiest of reasons. This was one of the worst fantasy novels that I have read and with so many good authors available I fail to understand how it ever got published. Looking through reviews on amazon many people agree with this opinion. I would recommend Joe Abercrombie, Greg Keyes, Chris Wooding, Alan Campbell, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert VS Reddick or KJ Parker for a similar type of fantasy trilogy with much better characters and writing style.

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