The author of four award-winning and critically acclaimed space operas (Provenance, 2017, etc.) aims her philosophical musings about politics, power, and revenge at a new subgenre: epic fantasy.
The land of Iraden is apparently the territory of two gods: the god of the Silent Forest, who protects the country and offers occasional advice to his chief votary, the Mother of the Silent; and the Raven, who speaks through a living bird known as the Instrument. Advised by a council of lords and the Mother of the Silent, the ruler of the land, known as the Raven’s Lease, gains power and authority from the Raven through his oath to sacrifice his own life when the Instrument dies. In a plot that borrows from, but does not lean too heavily on, Hamlet, the Lease’s Heir, the warrior Mawat, returns from battle with his faithful aide, Eolo, to discover the previous Instrument dead, his father missing, and his uncle Hibal seated on the Lease’s bench. The Strength and Patience of the Hill, a third god embodied as a large stone, recounts the treacherous game of politics that plays out while also telling its own millennialong history, which gradually sheds light on the divine motivations that drive the human plots. The story’s voice is a curious but compelling mix of first and second person, the god using its relative omniscience to narrate, explain, and direct action toward Eolo, who actually cannot hear the god most of the time. It is a common fantasy trope to suggest gods gain strength through faith and worshipers and that they can employ that strength to bend reality. But few authors have really explored all the implications of what happens when multiple beings with that power come into conflict. There is so much story and careful thought packed into this short volume that it should correct anyone who believes a fully realized fantasy novel requires a minimum of 500 pages.
Sharp, many layered, and, as always for Leckie, deeply intelligent.