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Playing to the Gods: Glass Thorns #5    by Melanie Rawn order for
Playing to the Gods
by Melanie Rawn
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2017 (2017)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Playing to the Gods follows Window Wall as the fifth and final episode in Melanie Rawn's theatrically magical Glass Thorns series. The series blends fantasy and the stage, in a world filled with different magical races.

Wizard/tregetour Cade Silversun leads the Touchstone theatrical group and magically charges glass wands for their performances. Cade has long been tortured by visions of possible futures, elsewhens. It took some time for him to share them with others, but now those close to him are fully aware of his ability, and its effect on him.

Many of his elsewhens relate to his closest friend, capricious glisker Mieka, who was enchanted by a lovely Caitiffer (with the forbidden talent of stitching spells). They had a child together. Mieka's witch wife's ambitions for wealth, power and a position at Court have never been in line with his own character and goals, and Cade has sought to counteract her effect on him.

As Playing to the Gods opens, Touchstone is at the peak of popularity, but its members have been working too hard for too long (and using too much thorn to keep going), in order to pay off the debt incurred by Lord Fairwalk's betrayal. Megs is pregnant with Cade's son, but only Mieka knows about this - and she swears him to silence.

When Mieka is attacked, an elsewhen allows Cade to save him from disaster, but events reveal the true nature of Mieka's manipulative wife. He leaves her, but keeps his beloved daughter. The powerful Archduke and his wizard ally continue to plot. A close friend of Touchstone's is murdered, and they put together a bold Shakespearean reprisal ('the play's the thing ...').

This final episode builds to a dramatic, otherworldly confrontation of a conclusion, in which Cade and Mieka must apply all their talents - and give their greatest performance ever to avert world-changing disaster. Though I have enjoyed every book, I must say that I breathed a sigh of relief at this conclusion to what I feel would have worked better as a trilogy. Still, very well worth the read!

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