Friday, March 2, 2012

Icefalcon's Quest by Barbara Hambly

Icefalcon's QuestIcefalcon's Quest by Barbara Hambly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the stand alone novels set in the same world as Hambly's Dawarth trilogy, Icefalcon's Quest centers on the Icefalcon, who has been cast out of his barbarian nomad tribe and now lives at the Keep of Dare. He is one of the elite Guard and a trained warrior who still keeps his native code of honor, often at odds with the more civilized society he has chosen to live in.

In this story, a rogue mage infiltrates the Keep and kidnaps young Prince Tir. Tir, as heir to the royal line, has the race memories of his people, although the flashes he gets are not always clear or easily interpreted. His kidnappers plan to use those memories to unlock the secrets of a lost, ice-buried Keep and use the knowledge to conquer the land. Icefalcon, blaming himself for not recognizing the disguised mage, sets out to rescue Tir. His journey brings him back to his native land, where he must face his past, as well as try to safeguard the future.

As with any of Hambly's works, this is an enjoyable read. The story flows well, with conflict, tension, and both inner and outer struggle. The turmoil that eight year old Tir faces is intense and frightening. Vair na-Chandros is chillingly evil, if a little one-dimensional. He doesn't appear to have any redeeming qualities, although that characterization fits him well, and makes him a frightening adversary. The mage Bektis is both daunting and vulnerable as he tries to hide his few weaknesses from na-Chandros. Other characters are given enough personality to make them real and interesting.

By far, the most fascinating character in the Icefalcon. Introduced in the original Dawarth trilogy, he is a bit of an enigma. His outlook and apparent lack of emotion can be off-putting at first, but if you pay attention to his background as it is slowly revealed, it becomes clear that the Icefalcon is a far more complex and intriguing character than he might seem. His journey is not only one of adventure and the rescue of Prince Tir, but also an internal struggle with who he is. He comes face to face with himself and the choices he's made, conscious or not. Icefalcon was one of my favorite characters in the Darwath sagas, and is even more so after reading this book.

The story takes place in the same basic geographical area as the earlier trilogy, although here the rescue mission takes Icefalcon and company farther into the approaching glaciers. It is not necessary to have read the earlier books to read this. There are some references to the earlier stories, but the pieces given are enough to fit the background in without needing to know every detail. The main characters in the early stories, Rudy, Gil, and Ingold are not a main part of the tale, although they do appear. Icefalcon's Quest is a tale that stands on its own quite well.

I very much enjoyed Icefalcon's Quest. It is another well written, fluid story, and a solid choice for fantasy fans.

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