The Cracked Throne by Joshua Palmatier

(2009-01-12)

Book 2 of The Throne of Amenkor
Published by DAW
ISBN 978-0-7564-0447-5
November 2007, 392 Pages
Author Web site: http://www.sff.net/people/jpalmatier/
Sample Excerpt from The Skewed Throne: http://www.sff.net/people/jpalmatier/excerpt2.html

Having all three books in a trilogy to read really enhances the experience and enjoyment. This is especially true of author Joshua Palmatier, whose Throne of Amenkor trilogy’s second volume, The Cracked Throne, picks up immediately following its predecessor The Skewed Throne. I jumped right into The Cracked Throne and Palmatier’s storytelling skills pulled me along the river.

This review, by its very nature as a review of a second book in a trilogy, will have some spoilers for those who haven’t read the first novel. To those people, I say read the first and then come back here.

OK, you’re back.

Varis is now the Mistress of Amenkor, having deposed Eryn at the conclusion of The Skewed Throne. The beginning of the novel really drew me in as Varis attempted to deal with the consequences of her actions in the first volume and as she comes to realize what being Mistress entails. As in the previous book, Varis’s thoughts and narrative come across as honest, uncompromising, and raw. After all, we are reading her direct thoughts.

Once she (barely) settles in as Mistress, the merchants who make up the primary upper class citizens of Amenkor, look to reorganize and more importantly, restock their food and sustenance supplies which have been dwindling. Varis is unsure whom to trust and is further set off balance by the visions of destruction she experiences and shares with the former Mistress, Eryn. This portion of the novel, maybe the 50 – 80 pages that comprise the 2nd quarter of the book and focus on the merchants and restocking of food, dragged just a bit for me. Drag might not be the best word, because the writing was good, and although these plot points are essential to the overall story, I just felt they received a bit too much attention when compared to the remainder of the novel.

The throne itself comes more into play and Palmatier expands on its strange history. Varis soon learns the souls of the former rulers of Amekor are housed within Throne, and more importantly, so are the souls of the seven who poured their essences into the creation of the throne. The visions of destruction are both a reminder of the past and a harbinger of the future, the throne was created to keep an invading force of blue-skinned nomads, the Chorl, from destroying Amenkor.

As the visions mount, it probably comes as little surprise that the Chorl actually do attack and invade Amenkor. Once these visions become more frequent and the Chorl The Cracked Throne kicks into higher narrative gear and becomes a very difficult book to put down. This more than balances any drawn out elements of the merchant/restocking portion of the novel.

What makes this novel is very much what made its predecessor work – Varis’s engaging narrative voice. There are no pretentions and the strength of any first person narrative is one of Varis’s strengths – the reader (for lack of a better term) learns about things alongside the protagonist. Another strength of Palmatier’s story is the throne itself and the slow reveal of its nature. It might be odd to make another comic book comparison to Palmatier’s work, but the Throne reminded me a great deal of an element of the Superman/Doomsday storyline where by rulers of a world pool their magical abilities together to create a super-being to battle the threat of the monster Doomsday. Palmatier’s theme of sacrifice for the greater good and its ultimate consequences echo more powerfully and subtly.

The former Mistress, Eryn, is the only living example of one who didn’t get absorbed into the Throne. As such, she is a mentor to Varis, somewhat replacing Erick. The relationship is a strange one and throughout the novel, it was difficult for me to fully trust Eryn despite Varis’s ability to do so.

On the whole, The Cracked Throne shows good evolution in Palmatier’s writing skills, despite a slightly unbalanced feel to the novel. An engaging protagonist, a thrilling conclusion, and the promise of great conclusion make the novel a very solid read.

© 2009 Rob H. Bedford

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