Author: Glenda Larke
Publisher: Orbit • 608 pages • £7.99
What’s that you say? A fantasy novel with a troubled heir, a difficult teenager, someone with powerful magic he can’t yet control? We’ve heard this before. But then, given that there are only supposed to be seven plots in the world, and everything’s borrowing from everything else, we can be forgiving. In the end, the main questions are: is it enjoyable? Do you care about the characters? Is it well-written? The answer to all these is yes.
In the final book in the Mirage Makers trilogy, Mirager-heir Arrant takes centre stage. Most of the action is seen from his perspective, as the scheming in Tyr becomes sidelined and the real threat that has been building throughout the trilogy emerges: the malevolent Ravage threatening to destroy the Mirage, and with it the ability of Arrant’s people to use magic.
As in the previous novels, this is a story of emotions and politics rather than bloody war, and Larke tells it well. You struggle with Arrant as he’s humiliated and manipulated, and are genuinely uncertain as to whether he’ll endure and what his fate will be. The characters are well-drawn, though tend to remain defined by their original descriptions: this person is good, this person bad, this person misguided… As flaws go though, it’s hardly unusual. You’ll want to scream at the stupidity of some of the characters’ decisions – which makes them seem more real.
Barring a slightly rushed climax, Song of the Shiver Barrens is a satisfying end to a trilogy that never pushes the boundaries, but does what it does very well.