Dec 02 2008

Review: The Illearth War

Sometime later, Covenant climbed to his feet, hugging the pain in his chest. His voice was weak from the effort of speaking around his hurt. “Bannor.”


“Tell the High Lord about this. Tell her everything–about Trell and me–and Troy.”


“And, Bannor–”

The Bloodguard waited impassively.

“I wouldn’t do it again–attack a girl like that. I would take it back if I could.” He said it as if it were a promise that he owed Bannor for saving his life.

But Bannor gave no sign that he understood or cared what the Unbeliever was saying.

After a while, Covenant went on, “Bannor, you’re practically the only person around here who hasn’t at least tried to forgive me for anything.”

“The Bloodguard do not forgive.”

“I know. I remember. I should count my blessings.” With his arms wrapped around his chest to hold the pieces of himself together, he went back to his rooms.

Rating: ★★★★★

When I first read these books as a kid, The Illearth War was my least favorite. Middle books of trilogies are rarely the strongest anyway, since you don’t get the excitement of meeting a bunch of new characters or the climax of the ending. I didn’t like the fact that the main character from the entire first book disappeared for half of this one; and I didn’t like Hile Troy in the position of protagonist. Most of the interplay between Covenant and Elena went over my head at that age (probably a good thing). Foamfollower, one of the best characters of the first book, is missing in this one. All in all, I found it a disappointment.

Reading it now, I like it much more and find it just as strong as the others. Hile Troy is the perfect contrast to Covenant: a man who was also whisked away from our world to the Land, but who embraces everything about it and wants to be a hero. He has none of Covenant’s fear of power, and dismisses Covenant’s prediction that he’s setting himself up for a fall. If you spent the first book wishing Covenant would stop crying about stuff and start blasting bad guys with his ring—well, Hile Troy is your guy.

Bannor really starts to comes to life as a character here, as he’s forced to take a more active role between Covenant and the Land. The scene I quoted above sums up Bannor and the Bloodguard: they’re completely devoted to their honor and the Vow they made to the Land, and the power of that Vow has given them a nearly unstoppable ability to keep it. But if it is ever broken, how will they handle that?

Mhoram starts to shine here too, especially when Troy puts the survival of the army on his shoulders. A main theme of these first three books is the balance between passion and control—Covenant’s wild magic and Elena’s desperation versus the stoicism of the Bloodguard and the Lords’ Oath of Peace. That develops further in the next book, but Mhoram starts to see the possibilities here.

There is also more action in this book than the first one, with two armies on the move and other things going on elsewhere. That partly reflects Hile Troy’s influence, as he’s very much a man of action who makes Covenant look like a man of sitting around and fretting. By the end of the book, I like Troy a lot. He may not always do the smartest thing, and definitely not the safest thing, but he always has the right intentions.

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