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Friday, March 9, 2007

Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen

Fred Saberhagen is an icon in the world of fantasy and science fiction writing. Some of the first sci-fi I read was his work. His style has evolved since the fist book in this trilogy, the Broken Lands.
The Broken Lands tells the story of Rolf, a farm boy whose family is murdered by the Eastern Empire army that has conquered his homeland. Rolf, while searching for his missing little sister. In his journey he joins the small resistance and gets swept into the search for the Elephant, a mythical beast prophesied to help free them.
The Elephant is part of the Old World. The story revolves around the fact that the world of technology was destroyed and the world of magic arose. The Elephant is a relic of the old world that still works, a nuclear powered tank that has remained hidden in a secure bunker for thousands of years. Apparently, technology from the Old World is far advanced of what we have today.
Rolf and his allies defeat the local Satrap of the East, but in the process, they lose the Elephant and all it's power. The book ends with the resistance preparing for a larger war against the Empire.
This first book has a fast pace, but leaves a lot of the details unexplained. It is a little unbelievable, but the pacing and characters are good, so it is a pleasant read. Luckily the next two books are much better.
In the Black Mountain, the Eastern Empire's local lord is Som the Dead. He is an undead sorcerer that has been given control over the Western lands. In this book, you see just how evil the East is. It is full of political infighting and deceit.
The story is told from Rolf's point of view as well as Chup, a former Satrap of the East who was captured by the resistance in the last book. Rolf and the resistance go up against Som and his demon minion, Zapranoth. In this book you see more of the technology and get a better idea of the fall of the Old World. The characters are much better defined and written. There is plenty of action, which I like.
This story is also about redemption. Chup turns from the path of evil and defects to the Western armies. To be honest, I like Chup's character the best. Chup has an iron code of honor and a blunt honesty that is admirable. He turns out to be the hero that defeats Zapranoth.
In Ardneh's World, we meet the Emperor of the East, an immortal named John Ominor. He has command of the most powerful wizards and demons on the planet. We also meet Ardneh, the Godlike being indirectly supporting the West. This book is the ultimate confrontation between the two.
The power of the east is anchored in the might of the demon Orcus, the most powerful being in existence. The story tells of the creation of magic and demons by the Old World.
There was a great nuclear war in the past. The scientists of the Old World developed a technology against nuclear war that changed the rules of physics. This change caused advanced technology to stop working and brought into being the powers of magic. Orcus was created by a nuclear explosion that went off at the same time that the rules changed. Any act of violence that happened at that exact moment created a demon. The more violent and powerful the act, the more powerful the demon. But the rules of magic were not fixed, and have slowly been sliding back to where science works again.
Which is where Ardneh comes in. Ardneh is a self aware computer designed to reverse the change and allow science to come back into ascendancy. Ardneh is a benevolent being who stands for all that was good from the Old World. He has set his course against the Empire of the East and all the evil that supports it.
Rolf is recruited by Ardneh to assist in the final battle against Orcus and the Eastern Armies. The story ends with the rules being partially reversed and Orcus is turned back into the nuclear explosion that birthed him. But the rules did not totally reverse. They are now equal. Science and magic powers coexist in the New World.
This story is a prequel to Fred's massively successful fantasy series The Books of Swords. It tells the back story of Ardeh and Draffut that figure so much in that series. Now that I have reread this trilogy, I am ready to reread the Books of Swords.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review!