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Hymn: The Final Volume of the Psalms of Isaak    by Ken Scholes order for
by Ken Scholes
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2017 (2017)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Hymn is the fifth and final volume of Ken Scholes' extraordinary epic, The Psalms of Isaak, that gradually transitions from fantasy to SF. If you thought George R. R. Martin was tough on his characters, you have to read Scholes, who takes it to levels that are hard even to imagine. And this series continues to grow in complexity and depth so whatever you do, don't try to jump into the middle.

The great Androfrancine library at Windwir went up in smoke in Lamentation. Gypsy King Rudolfo allied with Jin Li Tam (daughter of Macchiavellian Vlad Li Tam) and mechoservitor Isaak. Petronus, once the Androfrancine Pope, buried the Windwir dead, helped by orphan Neb. Young Marsh Queen Winters predicted that Neb would lead the Marshers' long anticipated pilgrimage home. In Canticle, assassins slaughtered guests at the Firstborn Feast of Jin Li Tam and Rudolfo's son Jakob. Winters was dethroned, her sister Ria becoming queen of the Y'Zirite Machtvolk. Vlad Li Tam watched countless family members killed by the Y'Zirites.

Neb learned of his origins and came into some of his powers in Antiphon. Vlad Li Tam followed a ghost southeast. Rudolfo sent Jin Li Tam and Jakob to the Machtvolk for safety, but Jin sailed on with Jakob to meet the Crimson Empress, whose Blood Guard were loosed on the Named Lands. In Requiem, Marta befriended Isaak. Rudolfo sent Resistance fighters into the Beneath Places. Vlad joined his daughter and let her believe that he had killed both her son and the small Crimson Empress. Neb and Petronus explored the moon.

As Hymn opens, the Andro-Francine Order of the Named Lands and the Y’Zirite Empire are at war, with the latter winning. Jin is focused on finding and killing her father, to avenge her son. A heartbroken Rudolfo has a plan to destroy the invaders. Neb and Petronius reach the Last Home Temple. Winter leads her people to their destiny on the Moon, realizing her Homeseeker's Dream. Some get their just deserts while others get their heart's desire, though not necessarily a happy ending.

There has been an awful lot going on in this series, to the point that I would have liked to go back and re-read each of the earlier episodes before enjoying this one. Sometimes I long for the days of single volumes or even trilogies. Still, I dived into this episode and it all came back to me as I read. Don't miss this superlative series, one of the best in speculative fiction ever.

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