by Victoria Strauss
The Awakened City
Eos, March, 2006.
Hardcover, 464 pages.
After the shocking events narrated in The Burning Land, the Empire of Arsace faces an uncertain future. The Brethren of the First Temple of the Gods are determined to retain their hold on the society as the religious leaders of the land. After destroying the renegade sorcerers of Refuge, they believed that the rivals are all dead. But the powerful Ravar, who is the most skilled Shaper to be born in generations, survived the destruction of his beloved Refuge, and is now consumed with hatred and a longing for vengeance against the Brethren. His epic plans for revenge are put in motion when he declares that he is the Next Messenger. The Next Messenger is the herald who prepares the way for the return of the now-sleeping God Arata. Ravar has another obsession: the beautiful Axane whom he grew up with in Refuge. Ravar kidnapped Axane, but then let her go. Ravar once again kidnaps Axane, who is now a mother living with her husband Gyalo Amdo Samchen, the former Aratist monk and talented Shaper who everyone believes is dead. Gyalo sets out to rescue Axane, who is traveling with Ravar and his fanatical followers towards the city of Baushpar for a final confrontation with the Brethren. Gyalo is horrified by Ravar's plans and is desperate to save his wife and child. But he has another problem: it's starting to look like Gyalo himself may be the real Next Messenger. And that's a path that he has no desire whatsoever to follow.
In this stunning conclusion to the story began in The Burning Land, Victoria Strauss combines a vastly entertaining action adventure with a moving story of two powerful men and their epic clash in a society that is dominated by a fanatical and oppressive religion. Ms. Strauss skillfully creates a fantastic and realistic world peopled by fascinating characters who struggle with questions about faith, destiny and finding one's place in the world.
--Claire E. White
The Awakened City is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the March, 2006 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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