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The Phoenix Transformed: Book Three of the Enduring Flame    by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory order for
Phoenix Transformed
by Mercedes Lackey
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Phoenix Transformed follows The Phoenix Unchained and The Phoenix Endangered in the Enduring Flame fantasy series by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. It's set in the same world as the authors' Obsidian Trilogy but a millennium later in time.

The Phoenix Unchained introduced childhood friends, stubborn Harrier Gillain and ever curious Tiercel Rolfort, as they fell into adventure. Tiercel became a practitioner of the long lost High Magick, bonded (by the Elves) to a great black dragon, Ancaladar, and suffered terrifying visions of a Lake of Fire. Harrier became a Knight-Mage like legendary Kellen. On the other side, Madiran Desert Wildmage Bisochim was led deep into darkness, yet believed he was doing good.

In The Phoenix Endangered, Tiercel and Harrier journeyed south, accompanied by annoying unicorn Kareta. Harrier healed a Telchi stranger, who trained him as a warrior. The Isvaieni tribes were unleashed upon the oasis cities at the desert edge, and Tiercel and Harrier were embroiled in carnage. In parallel, Shaiara rejected Shadow-touched Bisochim's leadership of the Isvaieni and led her own Nalzindar tribe deep into the desert to Abi'Abadshar of ancient legend. Tiercel and Harrier crossed paths with her there, and Ancaladar vanished, leaving Tiercel grieving.

As The Phoenix Transformed opens, Harrier seeks knowledge of Ancaladar from Kareta and accepts as MagePrice to give up what he values most some time in the future. He, Tiercel, Shaiara and Ciniran journey to the Lake of Fire, where they find they are too late. Bisochim has freed Demon Ahairan. All she needs to win the Firecrown's support and unleash the Endarkened on the world again is the cooperation of a Mage. How will she win it? By attacking those they love with Tainted creatures she Summons, from Goblins and Black Dogs to Sandwalkers and Shamblers, the reanimated dead.

What follows are grueling desert journeys, in which the surviving Isvaieni are led by Harrier (arguing with Tiercel all the way), under constant attack by Ahairan's creations. Their numbers are whittled away from over fourteen throusand to ultimately just over three thousand. And Tiercel keeps dreaming of the Demon. Towards the end of their travels they are joined by a susprising entourage that has traveled from Armethalieh, before being captured by Shamblers and rescued by Harrier.

Though the authors take their time getting there, the ending of this novel and of the Enduring Flame trilogy is a spectacular one, well worth every step taken with the Isvaieni en route. Though our heroes are both fully prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to save their world, there are survivors, the Dark is defeated yet again, and the remaining Isvaieni and their helpers prepare to heal their desert home. I expect there will be at least one more trilogy in this fascinating and complex world, and look forward to reading it.

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