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Enchanter: Book Two of the Wayfarer Redemption    by Sara Douglass order for
by Sara Douglass
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2001 (1996)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Enchanter is the second volume of The Wayfarer Redemption, which began with Battleaxe and will continue on through several more episodes. Douglass, one of several excellent Australian authors recently arrived on the fantasy scene (see also Cecilia Dart-Thornton and Ian Irvine), paints her world on a large canvas. She gives us the usual struggle between good and evil, though the latter is manipulated by a puppetmaster, the Dark Man, whose motivations remain obscure.

The series' hero is Axis, raised to be their Champion by the Brotherhood of the Seneschal. Early on, he fell in love with Faraday, a daughter of the nobility betrothed to his half-brother and rival, Borneheld. Axis and Borneheld share a mother, the princess Rivkah. He also has to deal with another half-brother, monstrous Gorgrael, who shares a father with him, winged StarDrifter from the long-lived Icarii race reviled by the Brotherhood as one of the Forbidden.

The triangle of sibling rivalry runs to war on multiple battlefronts, involving many races. Prophecy speaks of significant roles for both Axis (the StarMan) and Faraday (Tree Friend) in re-uniting three races - the human Acharites, the reclusive Avar and the flighty Icarii - against invasion. To make a long story short, Axis SunSoar seeks and finds his Icarii roots in the first volume, and Faraday is manipulated by the Sentinels (enigmatic, benign, ageless meddlers) into a loveless and often brutal marriage with Borneheld.

Battleaxe introduced another player, Azhure, from obscure origins and with a violent past. Of course, she is also much more than she seems, and moves right into the limelight in volume two. It begins in Talon Spike, where Axis' father and grandmother teach him the Songs of the Enchanters, but are puzzled by his prior knowledge. Azhure trains with the Strike Force. Axis suceeds in winning the leadership of the Icarii but fails with the Avar, who await Faraday.

Axis seeks the teachings of the sole remaining Charonite in the Underworld, learns more about his magic and its perils, wonders at the Star Gate, and takes custody of the ring of the original Enchantress. Gorgrael brings on winter, wages war with his horde of Skraelings and Ice Worms (shades of Dune), and makes monsters - 'Dragon-clawed ... Blight-eyed ... Ogre-bellied ... and grave-jawed'; in short, Gryphons who are born pregnant and multiply.

Azhure falls for Axis, and is guarded by legendary Alaunts, canine killing machines trained by Axis' disgraced ancestor WolfStar, a terrible Enchanter who died four thousand years before. In another triangle, of love rather than hate, Axis is torn between his new feelings for Azhure and commitment, by promise and Prophecy, to Faraday. Axis and Azhure make love and wage war together, striving to build a new Tencendor (and to find the traitor in their inner circle). There are many hints that Azhure may be much more than she seems.

Battleaxe was a good read, with occasionally awkward characterization. The tale has matured and taken flight in Enchanter, answering some questions (of Azhure's origins) while raising others (of the Dark Man's motivations and Faraday's role) and moving the plot ahead on several fronts. I look forward to reading the next volume, to see if it can continue to fly towards the rarefied heights of great fantasy.

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