August 28, 2007
BANEWREAKER (Tor, 2004) and GODSLAYER (Tor, 2005) by Jacqueline Carey. Someone once said that the villain is the hero of the other side, a maxim that l long ago took to heart in my own fiction. Lately it seems as if a lot of other folks have taken it to heart as well. Witness WICKED, the hit novel and Broadway show that tries to redeem the Wicked Witch of the West, or the recent deluge of vampire novels wherein the vamps are the heroes, rather than the monsters of yore. And now comes Jacqueline Carey, best known for her Kushiel series of erotic fantasy novels, with BANEWREAKER (Tor, 2004) and GODSLAYER (Tor, 2005), a two-part high fantasy epic that is at heart a retelling of LORD OF THE RINGS from the point of view of Sauron. Oh, Sauron’s not in it, of course. Neither is Gandalf nor Frodo the Ringbearer nor Aragorn son of Arathorn; that would be copyright infringement. You don’t have to squint very hard to see their shadows standing behind Satoris the Third-Born, Malthus, Dani the Water-Bearer, and Aracus Altorus, however, for all that Carey does a deft job of making them characters in their own right. And where Sauron had his Nine, Satoris has his Three, the foremost of whom, Tanaros Blacksword, is really the hero (antihero?) of the saga, and a damned compelling character. You can’t help rooting for him, even though you are uncomfortably aware all the while that you’re cheering on the Witch-King of the Nazgul… which may well be Carey’s point. It’s a splendid idea splendidly accomplished, so much so that I ended up wishing there were three of them instead of two. I mean, hey, if you’re going to go this far, why not go all the way? I have not read Carey’s better known Kushiel books yet, but if they are as good as these, I know I’ll need to check them out.