I was uncertain about picking up this book.
The truth is, while I love Tracy Hickman’s work in collaboration with Margaret Weis (especially for the Dragonlance and Death Gate books), I wasn’t enthused by the one solo offering of his that I had read. On the other hand, I figured that perhaps that work was an aberration-so I picked up Mystic Warrior, the first in the Bronze Canticles series. Just goes to show that it’s often a good idea to give someone another chance.
The setting of the Bronze Canticles is actually a trio of settings-three worlds that are seemingly separate, yet in a strange way connected. One world, Aerbon, is populated by dwarves and humans who live at the whims of five mighty dragons. The world of Sine’shai is inhabited by faeries, at war with Famadorians-creatures such as centaurs, satyrs, and minotaurs-and with each other. And finally, there is G’tok, a world inhabited by goblins-and by the unmoving remains of great metallic Titans, as well as assorted mechanical devices that no longer seem to work.
The connection between these worlds seem to focus through the dreams/visions of certain people in each world. In Sine’shai, the Fae Seeker named Dwynwyn is featured in the dreams. In G’tok, an “engineer” named Mimic seems to have had a vision or two of his own. And in Aerbon-well, it seems that a number of people have been afflicted by these dreams. One such is Galen Arvad, a blacksmith; not only does he have the dreams, he also has the dubious gift of hearing the conversation of inanimate objects. Unfortunately, this marks him as one of the Elect on this world-people who are taken away by the Inquisitors of the Pir Drakonis (“People of the Dragon”). Galen was able to avoid being discovered for a long time-but luck runs out sometime, and it happens early in the book.
Mystic Warrior is primarily concerned with the actions of Galen, and others that he comes into contact with on Aerbon. The Inquisitor Tragget is fairly central to the story, as he not only hold a significant position in the Vasskan Church, he also secretly shares the dreams that Galen has. Also of note is Maddoc, a fellow who is-for lack of a better term-imprisoned with Galen, who believes that real life is the dream, and his dreams are the reality (and he has one of the best lines of the book: watch for the Secret Brotherhood…!). And while those who are Elected are generally considered dead to the world, Galen’s wife, Berkita, isn’t quite willing to give up on him, nor is his friend-the dwarf Cephas. (And while I like the character of Cephas, I hate his style of speech. It probably wouldn’t bother me if I knew if “er” was a noun, verb, adjective….)
There’s a bit of time spent with the Fae in the book as well, and I have to say that I found it an interesting take on such beings. When reading about faeries, one tends to think of trickery, deception, and mostly frivolous; one doesn’t expect them to be at war with everyone-and I certainly didn’t expect to see that the Fae do not lie-period. Truth is very important to them, and the position of Seeker is dedicated to discovering new truths; such truths may even turn the tides of war. As far as the goblins…well, to be honest, while I hope to see a bit more of them, I was a little underwhelmed by Mimic and his work to move up the social ladder (thanks to his knack for getting a mechanical device to actually work). Still, we’re early in the series, and a lot can happen in future books.
As far as magic goes: well, it’s interesting. It’s certainly different than your usual hocus-pocus, and it’s a little tricky to understand; fortunately, there’s an appendix that helps describe it, along with other major details about the setting.
I found Mystic Warrior to be a fairly good read, and a great improvement over the last solo effort of his that I’d read (although I must give credit where credit is due: this book wasn’t a solo effort; Laura Hickman is the co-author, and I don’t want to miss acknowledging credit to her). While much was revealed about Aerbon in this book, there’s still mysteries to discover, and we haven’t really scratched the surface of G’tok, nor do we have anything remotely resembling resolution in Sine’shai-which means there’s plenty of room to explore in the next books. I’d say that this has the makings of a pretty good series.