The Phoenix Endangered: Book Two of The Enduring Flame
by Mercedes Lackey
Cover Artist: Todd Lockwood
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765315946
Date: 16 September 2008 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In The Phoenix Endangered, budding Knight-Mage Harrier and self-taught High Mage Tiercel find themselves facing a terrible danger--a Wildmage gone rogue--as an army builds amid the deserts far to the south of Armethalieh. With the Elves nearly all gone and the High Mages the stuff of legend, it is up to Harrier and Tiercel, plus an adventurous young woman from the desert wastelands, to stop a war in which the Darkness might very well quench the Light.
The second volume of Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory's Enduring Flame trilogy opens with the boys having gained the help of black dragon, Ancaladar (whose bond with the Elven hero Jermayan was transferred to Tiercel), and the aggravating unicorn, Kareta. Their goal is to find the Lake of Fire and the Fire Woman (possibly a remnant--or return--of the Endarkened destroyed in the previous trilogy) before the Wildmage Bisochim can lead his growing army against their realm.
For her part, Shaiara has realized that Bisochim is both mad and Shadow-touched, so she resolves to lead her people to a mythic oasis. Though the journey is dangerous, nothing prepares them for what they will find beneath the sands--or the lengths to which Bisochim's followers will go to stop them.
The destinies of the three young heroes are intertwined, as Tiercel and Harrier struggle with the complexities and burdens of their newfound powers, while Shaiara struggles with the demands of leadership and the danger of Bisochim's minions ... not to mention the secrets discovered under their very feet.
By the end, all three are on the path to becoming heroes--if they can survive their individual challenges first.
This novel continues to develop the lands and people beyond the woodlands and City of Armethalieh seen in the previous trilogy. Expanding one's setting is always a good idea, though the inclusion of a desert-dwelling group of zealots--one of whom is stirring up an army intent on taking over the world-- is not entirely new territory for epic fantasy. Luckily, Shaiara is a plucky and resourceful character, rising above the tropes common to multicultural fantasy, and is able to engage the reader's attention with her adventures while Harrier and Tiercel make progress of their own.
Like most middle parts of a trilogy, this book has the burden of doing "heavy lifting," advancing and deepening the plot, moving the characters along their arcs, and yet not really finishing anything. The effort spent in building reader's expectations, knowing that many or most will only pay off in the next book, risks producing reader frustration--and while there are a few elements one might like to see wrapped up herein, readers can rest assured that Lackey and Mallory will not let them down.