The Revenge of the Elves by Gary Wassner. Review by Andrea Johnson
Imagine hundreds of threads going into a loom. Multiple strand braids are created, separated, rebraided, the web is formed. Colors are blended, fade, and are recreated, exposing a secret pattern, one this loom was not designed to create. From a distance, this is GemQuest.
Gary Wassner continues in his style of smaller teams of three or four characters being sent on separate quests, usually teaming characters of different races (Dwarf, Elf and Human) together, to help their races better understand each other. This allows a lot (and I mean a lot) to be happening at once within the ensemble cast, but it also makes it hard to remember who is up to what, with who, and on their way to which city, so pay attention! I'm looking forward to the "GemQuest Companion," not to mention the prequel about Odelot.
The writing and dialogue in this volume are smoother and faster than in previous books. Gone are the passages that begin with characters realizing the enemy is just over the next hill, and they must get away now or die, just to start in on 3 or 4 pages of philosophical conversation (didn't the bad guys show up a few paragraphs ago?), only to barely escape with their lives. Also, the rules of noble politeness have been lifted. People are impatient and testy, they know the time for action has come, and they can't bear to sit idly by. It's actually nice to see this human side of everyone, instead of all the sugar coated greetings, formal "epic" talk, and teary goodbyes of the previous volumes.
For most of the book, the focus is off the twins, and on the adventures of other characters, such as Caroline and Dalloway who are on their way to find the well at Odelot, Colton Dar Agonthea's creation of his creepy golem army, the three Elven brother kings who decide to send troops to Tamarand against Colton, just to name a few. Robyn Dar Tamarand will have to choose who to aid—the Heir Davmiran, his family and home city which will soon be under attack by Colton, or Promanthea, his bonded Lalas, who stands just outside his home city.
It stands to reason the Revenge of the Elves involves their battle ready and highly disciplined troops heading to Tamarand to destroy Colton's soulless army. And it does involve exactly that. When the revenge does come, it is subtle, brutal, and lethal. By the time I saw it coming, it had nearly already happened. Something like this changes your view of an author, when he allows beloved characters to be so easily taken advantage of.
Briefly seen in previous volumes, other Chosen make more of an appearance. Through them, we hear their conversations with their Lalas, along with the confusion of being shut out and possibly betrayed. We learn the Lalas die at the time of their own choosing. They do not get sick, and nothing kills them, but when a Lalas dies, its Chosen soon follows, for this is the way. The roots of the great trees hold the earth together, if they all die, so does the earth. Who in their right mind would ever contemplate breaking the bond between a chosen and its bondmate, nearly its personal deity? This "breaking of the bond" is a theme throughout the novel, and I'm sure will become even more important as other secrets reveal themselves.
In this complicated puzzle, the hidden pieces must come together from the corners of the earth. Only when the pieces are in place can the true quest for The First begin, and it is so easy to assume The First is the first Lalas, because what else could it be? Wassner plays on the trust of his reader. Pay close attention to the details, Wassner is telling you everything you need to know to see the truth, knowing you have probably already chosen what to believe. Choice lies at the heart of GemQuest, the choice to do what you want, or what you must. Choose to stay on the path you have been on, or to choose a new way of survival.
I suggest this series to readers of any age who are fans of Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and other epic fantasy authors. You will not be disappointed. Earlier volumes have ended on a cliffhanger, and it was nice to get some closure at the end of this one. Although I was certainly left needing to know what was going to happen next, many questions had been answered to my satisfaction. Regardless if Wassner does what I think he's going to do, this series is going to pack one hell of a punch. Even if my guess is completely off base, Wassner has proven, and continues to prove his mettle.
Andrea Johnson lives in beautiful southwestern Michigan with her husband, and spends as much time as possible reading and enjoying science fiction and other speculative fiction. She is an administrator and book reviewer at Worm's Sci Fi Haven and an official reviewer at Multiverse.