“The windship flotilla has already left for Hebusalim.” The ship may have sailed and the sheets may be a little slack, but that doesn’t keep Gurvon Gyle, Ramita Ankesharan and company from coming back for more swords and sorcery in Hair’s latest.
In this second volume of the Moontide Quartet, following last year’s Mage’s Blood, New Zealander Hair spins a satisfying fantasy that, in some aspects, is a sort of mashup of J.R.R. Tolkien and Henry Kissinger. The Emperor Constant, suitably Byzantine, heads a polity that has designs on its neighbors, and thanks to the happy fact the moontide is on the way and that Rondelmar boasts “all the strongest magi,” it seems as if he has a fighting chance to control the known world. Hair is strongest at building said world: The details of geography and ethnography are believable, complete and utterly satisfying. Some of the other kit is more derivative, though, as with the so-called Scytale of Corineus, a gewgaw powerful enough, as the resourceful old Belonius Vult puts it, “to make Noros great—the equal of Pallas.” Call it the one Scytale to rule them all: It’s big mojo, but we’ve seen that trope before. Still, Hair capably spins a rather elaborate storyline, or better multiple storylines, all suitably tangled, given the conspiracies and mind-scramblings that are afoot. Suffice it to say that the reader will want to keep plenty of gnostic energy on hand to follow these complex (and sometimes overly long) comings and goings, which, given that there are two more volumes to come, necessarily end on a cliffhanger; as one of the principal players says in closing, darkly, “The real war has only just begun.”
So it has, and fans of the series will be eager to see what comes next.