River of the World
by Chaz Brenchley
Review by Mel Jacob
Ace Hardcover Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 044101478X
Date: 03 April, 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Award winning fantasy author Chaz Brenchley continues his saga Selling Water by the River begun in Bridge of Dreams in his latest novel River of the World. Set in a vaguely Middle Eastern culture, the novel opens with a horrific scene in which Jendre, widow of the Sultan of Maras, witnesses the castration of her lover Salem. Meanwhile, Sundain rebels Issel, thief and water-mage, and his allies cross the river separating the city of Sund from the city of Maras intent on destroying the magic bridge uniting the two cities, which led to the enslavement of the Sundain. Brenchley reveals enough details of the earlier novel for new readers to follow the action.
Jendre vows revenge on Maras for Salem and for her younger sister Sidië who lies in an enforced dream state to maintain the magic that created and maintains the bridge. Imprisoned in the Palace of Tears with the widows of the old Sultan, Jendre struggles to find help for Salem and a means of escape.
Issel and the rebels want to restore his city of Sund to independence. The evil of the bridge and its vile light destroys minds and eventually turns humans into brutes called dogtooths. Issel has yet to learn how to manage water magic and the power it gives him. His allies include Gilder, a rebel, with only a touch of water magic, Rhoan whose water magic hides the Sundain rebels, and Baris a dogtooth. Gilder wants to kill all Marasi. Rhoan tries to protect Issel from himself and fears the power of water over him. She abhors killing anyone, even Marasi.
Pain, physical and moral struggles, and sacrifices predominate. Issel must yield to the water to use its power, but loses more and more of himself in the process. Jendre loses friends, her lover, and freedom. She risks her own life, but fails to save her servant Mirjana. Eventually Jendre's path crosses that of Issel and his allies, and they join forces to destroy the bridge.
Those who have read the Bridge of Dreams will recognize and understand many details of the characters and their complex and evolving relationships better than new readers. The rich descriptions and language carry all readers along. One minor irritant may disturb some readers. While using a literary style effectively, Brenchley reveals a fondness for the phrase "for sure," and various characters use it repeatedly.
While listed as a two volume series, Brenchley has left plenty of opportunity at this novel's end to continue the series. The bridge still stands and Sidië still dreams, but Jendre has vowed to destroy it and free her sister.