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Requiem: The Psalms of Isaak    by Ken Scholes order for
by Ken Scholes
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Requiem is the fourth (following Lamentation, Canticle and Antiphon) in Ken Scholes' brilliant Psalms of Isaak. Whatever you do, don't try to jump into the middle of this one, as the series (one of only a few that successfully spans fantasy and science fiction) is getting pretty complex.

Lamentation opened as the great Androfrancine library at Windwir went up in smoke. Gypsy King Rudolfo was falsely accused of its destruction. Jin Li Tam (a highly trained child of Macchiavellian Vlad Li Tam) and damaged mechoservitor Isaak joined Rudolfo. Petronus the Fisherman, once the Androfrancine Pope, buried the Windwir dead, helped by orphan Neb. Young Marsh Queen Winters hailed Neb as the one prophesied to lead the Marshers' long pilgrimage home.

In Canticle, blood-magicked assassins slaughtered highborn guests at the Firstborn Feast of Jin Li Tam and Rudolfo's son Jakob. Winters was dethroned, her sister Ria declaring herself queen of the Y'Zirite Machtvolk (Y'Zirite worshippers venerate Jakob as their Child of Promise and await the coming of the Crimson Empress). Neb and Isaak sought metal men in the Churning Wastes. Vlad Li Tam watched most of his large family slaughtered in an Y'Zirite Blood Temple.

In Antiphon, Neb learned of his origins and came into some of his powers, after Isaak sacrificed himself to save him. Vlad Li Tam followed a ghost southeast. Rudolfo sent Jin Li Tam and Jakob to the Machtvolk for safety. There, after Jin learned of her grandfather's plan for her, she and Jakob sailed to meet the Crimson Empress. And the latter's Blood Guard were loosed on the Named Lands.

As Requiem opens, a Named Lands child (Marta) encounters and protects a metal man who paints his cave in blood - an unlikely friendship develops. Still in shock from his father's betrayal, Rudolfo is horrified to learn what his wife has done from Winters. He sends a resistance army into the Beneath Places before facing the invaders, a surprising ally by his side. And more and more begin to share Winters' Homeseeker's Dream.

Jin Li Tam meets the Crimson Empress and is unable to do her grandfather's work. But then her father arrives, having acquired a staff of great power and rescued the Vessel of Grace, destruction in his wake. He brings a reckoning for Y'Zir, one that will leave his daughter broken until she finds 'the truest clarity of purpose she'd ever known.' And Vlad Li Tam is himself betrayed (more wheels within wheels within wheels to keep readers guessing).

Neb and Petronus reach the moon, where a powerful creature named Aver-Tal-Ka works with them to reach D'Anjite's mad daughter and unseal the Firsthome Temple. Petronus does what he must and Neb finds the Moon Wizard's Ladder. The history of this devastated world gradually emerges from all these separate stories, as the author sets scenes for the conclusion to his Great Game, whose subtle ploys have opened up for us like nested Russian dolls.

Scholes hurts and betrays loved characters regularly, making his masterpiece very dark at times. But Requiem offers hope of light at the end of the tunnel. At the back of this volume, the author thanks his readers and encourages us to stay tuned for the final volume, Hymn. I certainly will do so and encourage all fantasy/SF fans not to miss the superb Psalms of Isaak.

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