Posted on October 12, 2012 by Monica Valentinelli
Available at Amazon.com
Citadels of the Lost is Book Two in The Annals of Drakis series by Tracy Hickman. A veteran author, Hickman explores a new fantasy world where the opposites of magic provide power (and a lack thereof) to varying races; humans, elves, dragons, dwarves, goblins, chimerians, manticores, etc. The elves rule the dreaded Rhonas Empire with an iron fist — and slavery by use of their magical source dubbed the “Aether.”
In Book One, readers met Drakis as a slave who ripped his freedom from the creepy elves. These aren’t the namby pamby nature lovers found in other fantasy stories; these elves are power hungry and desperately want/need to control everything they can get their hands on. As such, there are layers and layers of motivation, intrigue, and secrets to be found there. Now, I haven’t read the first book, and I feel that my experience was poorer as a result. Certain characters and character types I had to learn more about by example — The Lyric and chimerians were hard for me to picture until I got further into the book. The love affair between Mala and Drakis also seemed to take second stage compared to the quest-like nature of what had to happen here. Their relationship seemed very one-sided, but it felt like it had to be. I’m sure this would have made more sense to me if I learned not only how they met, but why Drakis fell so hard, so fast for her.
So, if you’re going to read this book? Definitely pick up the first one. That doesn’t mean, however, that this book wasn’t enjoyable. It was nice to read about an empire where humans were enslaved, struggling, and scattered. I found myself diving into the story rather quickly; I just felt like I was missing something important. This is a land focused more the social intricacies of power; a realm where magic wasn’t as common as one might think and, even then, there are rules based on the physicality of what’s required to perform magic. With physical apparatuses required to access the two sides of magic, this is firmly a story about characters and conflict and less about the proverbial sparkles. There’s a cleanliness to the prose where no word was wasted; no scene unnecessary. Everything here allows you to lounge in this world until the next character-gone-wrong or the next threat pokes its head out.
The questing nature of this book is centered upon a hero and his legend — Drakis. But is he a hero? Or a pawn? Well, he certainly doesn’t want to be the savior of humanity, but multiple happenstances, messy accidents, and determined characters seem to keep tossing the idea of destiny his way. This take on the main character provided a sense of reality to this tale, for the world turns regardless of heroic, epic deeds. Indeed, Drakis may have the brawn, but beyond that? Who is he really? A lovesick man who’s trying to make good on a promise?
New characters and scenery are introduced in this book the further Drakis and his ragtag band of adventurers explore the northernmost lands. While the story continues to set up the epic battle you know has to happen, certain characters enrich the experience, characters I’d love to see die a miserable, lonely, terrifying death — like Tsi Shebin Timuran. (Yes, I would really like to see her die painfully and slowly. . .) Much of what the elves can do is based on magical brainwashing called “Devotions.” Imagine, never being able to think for yourself, because someone else holds the magical key to your free will. That, in a nutshell, is what gives the elves their fierce power. Take that away, and. . . Well, you can see why Drakis, an escaped slave, is such a threat to Shebin and the elves.
If you’re searching for a fast read, I would pick up this book only if you’ve read the first one. I’m very much looking forward to the next in this series; I feel it’s an interesting take on a “What if?” scenario. Clean, streamlined, and fast-paced, I’d classify this to be a contemporary fantasy novel that teeters more on the character and “cost” side than the epic awe and wonderment — although the latter is there, hidden within the annals of history.
Review by Monica Valentinelli
Tags | dark-fantasy