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    Review of THE GATHERING STORM by Kate Elliott (see her website)


    Daw Books, February 2004

    Review by Jennifer Vilches

    The land of the elf-like Aoi was cast out from the earth into the aether with powerful spells in the distant past. Now the time for its return is fast approaching, and a cabal of sorcerers is determined to do anything necessary to ensure that the spell is renewed to keep the Aoi away, including controlling King Henry via possession. Prince Sanglant has led his army to the far lands of the griffins and centaurs to find allies with the necessary magic to free his father and confront the cabal led by Skopos Anne. After a long absence (that seemed quite short to her), Sanglant's wife Liath returns from the aether with new knowledge about her magical heritage and a grim determination to stop Anne's disastrous plan. But time grows short, and the political chaos that has descended on Henry's kingdoms makes everything more difficult. Wendar and Varre are falling apart under bickering rivals as he is off pursuing conquests in other lands. This leaves a door open for the lizard-like Eika invasion led by Stronghand - who plans not to raid and plunder, but to rule. Stronghand has a secondary mission as well, one that just might hold the key to surviving the coming cataclysm: to find the much-persecuted Alain now that their strange psychic bond has returned.

    THE GATHERING STORM is the fifth volume of author Kate Elliott's wrist-bending Crown of Stars fantasy series. It is not a stand-alone read; new readers will definitely want to start at the beginning with the first book, KING'S DRAGON. Fans of the series might want to skim through previous books before diving into this one, because there's not much in the way of a recap provided. I'm not a novice at reading long fantasy series, but it had been a year or so since I read the fourth book, CHILD OF FLAME (buy it), and I was feeling a little lost among the multitude of story lines.

    This is a fascinatingly complex world, complete with religions, magic systems, and several different races of beings. Elliott could easily write other books set in this world without exhausting its possibilities. In fact, there is so much detail and such a large cast that at times it gets a little overwhelming to keep track of, especially without a character guide. It's also hard to see the significance of some of the minor plot threads and while they might make more sense in the sixth and final book, I found myself getting a little bored with some of them. Elliott has generally done very well in developing complex main characters in this series - both heroes and villains have mixed character traits and motivations. But while a couple of the characters develop and grow in this book, several of the other main characters seem to regress into shallowness.

    Long series tend to get a bit bloated as they progress, and at almost a thousand pages, this is no exception. However, for the most part the plot advances steadily along without bogging down. But after such a long, patient build-up, the climax feels rushed. Still, all in all, I would recommend this imaginative and complex series to fantasy readers who aren't daunted by hefty, multi-volume series.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 8/01/04

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