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The Tower on the Rift    by Ian Irvine order for
Tower on the Rift
by Ian Irvine
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2002 (2001)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Tower on the Rift is the second of Irvine's new fantasy quartet, The View from the Mirror. It's a sequel that I was eagerly anticipating and I have not been disappointed. The author has delivered the same blend of unrelenting action, strong heroine, varied settings, and unusual races. In particular, the jellyfish-eating Telt were an interesting addition in this volume, as was the barren salt desert that used to be the Sea of Perion.

AShadow on the Glass ended with the disruption of the Great Conclave by the unleashing of forbidden magic that left most of the participants unconscious during Yggur's conquest of the city of Thurkad. As the second volume begins, we watch various groups attempt flight from the city. Tensor, who did the damage to the Conclave, has forced the Chronicler Llian to accompany him and a group of Aachim, taking the Mirror with them. Many of the Aachim blame Llian for events leading to the massacre in Shazmak.

The Magister Mendark, his aide Tallia and a street waif Lilis lead a second group to the dockside slums where they take shelter and attempt, fruitlessly at first, to make arrangements to escape Yggur's wrath. And the mysterious Shand rescues Karan and hides her amongst the Telt, while he also searches for a means of escape. In the meantime, Yggur leads his armies of men and Whelm, and develops a relationship with Maigraith, despite the revulsion raised in him by her Charon eyes.

It has been established that Karan is a triune, a blending of three races, and that her powers were suppressed by Tensor in her childhood. This second volume reveals that Llian is also more than he seems and that he has inherited the Gift of Rulke, manifest in his ability to withstand Tensor's spell. Maigraith is also a blending of races, including the Charon. Shand's past has been both powerful and tragic. Lilis searches for her long-lost father. This second volume raises even more questions than the first, though it does lead up to a grand finale that includes confrontation with the infamous Charon Rulke.

Aside from the fast-paced action, one thing that I particularly enjoy about this series is the characterization. Though it is occasionally a little rough around the edges and behaviour can be erratic, all of the people in these tales are very human, whether they are old human, Aachim, Charon or Faellem. None is completely evil, like Tolkien's Sauron, nor fully good. Most are imperfect. Even the admirable Karan is sometimes vain and often irritable. Llian can be blind to what's going on around him, when tracking down his Histories. And the reader is not even sure about the unreadable Rulke in his Nightland prison. What are his motivations and how bad is he?

The Tower on the Rift is the second volume of four and will be released January, 2002. The third, Dark is the Moon, was released in the UK and Canada earlier this year and the fourth, The Way Between the Worlds, is scheduled to follow shortly. US readers will have to wait a little longer (July 2002 and January 2003, respectively) for the latter two volumes to resolve the series' mysteries, including the riddle that Shand spoke to Rulke in their tower confrontation:[Ri:Break down the golden horn,
ish the glass unmade,
ear the thrice born,
ut beware the thrice betrayed].
^bc]If you like your fantasy full of action, aliens and ambiguity, then give The View from the Mirror a go; you won't be disappointed.

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