I apologize for the horrible pun in the title of this post, but some things, well, they just have to be done.
I eargerly anticipated this book for most of the summer and was thrilled when the review copy showed up. (Thanks to the good folks at Pyr.) The chaos of moving kept me from getting to it as soon as I’d have liked. But it was worth the wait.
This is the thinnest of the Morlock books so far, but that doesn’t mean it’s thin on story. It takes us back to the earliest days of Morlock’s life and then some. The book opens with Morlock’s mother Nimue betraying his father Merlin to his old enemy Earno. She’s pregnant with Morlock at the time.
The main part of the action takes place years later, when Morlock, raised by the Dwarves after his parents are exiled, has joined the Graith of Guardians. He’s a thain, the lowest possible rank. Morlock has a major problem, one he isn’t aware of. He’s come to the notice of the gods, and they’re messing with him. In case it isn’t obvious, let me say that this is never a good thing. Ever.
Morlock finds himself in the middle of a war between the Dwarves and the Dragons, ancient enemies who have fought before. This is also never a good thing. Before it’s over, Morlock with have to come to grips with his heritage and the history of his family, both his biological family of Ambrose and his adopted family of Dwarves. In many ways this is a coming of age story.
The action is good, the dialogue crackles, and Enge doesn’t broadcast where he’s going with the story. He also shows how certain aspects of Dwarvish culture originated, and he does so in a logical manner. Enge is a classicist by profession, and it shows in his prose, which I found quite readable and much more enjoyable than the flat prose that packs so many doorstop sized novels. With his tales of Morlock the Maker, Enge is establishing himself as one of the major writers of the decade.
One thing that I did have trouble with was keeping up with the many members of the supporting cast. Names aren’t my strong suit, and there’s a lot of them in this book. Some of them seem to be there not because they’re particularly essential for this story, but they need to be introduced now in order to play role in the larger story arc. At least that seems to be the case from some foreshadowing in a couple of places.
The characters are unique individuals, and Enge does a good job getting in their heads. Almost everyone has motivations that are complex and at times contradictory. Just like real people. I found the character of Merlin the most interesting and hope we’ll see more of him in future volumes. I suspect we will.
The subtitle of this novel is A Tournament of Shadows Book 1, implying there’s much more to this story to come. For one thing, we know the gods haven’t finished messing with Morlock.