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Treason Keep: Book Two of the Hythrun Chronicles    by Jennifer Fallon order for
Treason Keep
by Jennifer Fallon
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This second in the Hythrun Chronicles follows Medalon, which introduced a land ruled by 'Sisters of the Blade' through warrior 'Defenders'. R'Shiel discovered that she was the 'demon child' and underwent harsh 'tempering' by the gods (whose powers wax and wane depending on the number of believers each has) to prepare her to slay one of their number, the Karien god Xaphista. The War God's tempering continues this time.

As the second episode opens, R'Shiel lies mortally wounded in the magical Harshini Sanctuary, and Brak trades a life for hers with Death. The woman R'shiel believed to be her mother, Joyhinia, has been left with the mind of a child, and Tarja is at Treason Keep, allied with Hythria's heir, Damin Wolflblade, and grieving for his half-sister, whom he believes dead. What I enjoyed most in this second episode was its Taming of the Shrew theme, the lady being the lovely, spoiled, spirited Princess Adrina, heiress of Fardohnya. Her machinations entertain, after her father, King Hablet, forces her to marry the pious Karien Prince Cratyn, whose name she regularly mispronounces as 'Cretin'. Just as Shakespeare's Kate has redeeming qualities, we soon learn that Adrina has cultivated the role of 'harridan' to avoid a loveless marriage to someone who sees her only as a path to wealth and power.

In addition to the witless Joyhinia, another nasty piece of work shows up again - Loclon hates R'shiel so much that he allies with the Kariens, in order to seek power over her. The charming Dace, god of thieves, continues to intervene in mortal affairs, as does his sister Kali, the childlike goddess of love. Leads R'shiel and Tarja come together once more, along with a delightful crew of small 'demons'. They, Brak and Damin, are joined by Adrina who flees her husband's army in the guise of a collared 'court'esa'. There are betrayals, captures, and escapes, and a cliffhanger ending in which another beloved character is mortally injured. As this episode ends, R'shiel takes her destiny in her own hands, and vows to 'destroy Xaphista'. But is that all this headstrong heroine plans?

The Hythrun Chronicles is an entertaining series with a strong element of romance, not to be missed by fans of fantasy. But don't open Treason Keep without reading Medalon first - it's too hard to jump into this fairly complex plot mid-stream, and there's no introductory summary (which I would have found helpful even after having read the first episode).

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