Exile (Book Two of the Outcast Chronicles) – Rowena Cory Daniells (Solaris)
For over three hundred years the mystics have lived alongside the true-men, until King Charald lays siege to the mystic’s island city. Imoshen, most powerful of the female mystics, is elected to negotiate with the true-man king. The male mystics still resent her, but she has an ally in Sorne, the half-blood, who was raised by true-men. Even though he is vulnerable to her gifts, he gives Imoshen his loyalty. In return, she gives him the most dangerous of tasks, to spy for her. She negotiates exile for her people. They must pack all their valuables, reach port and set sail by the first day of winter. But to do this, they have to cross a kingdom filled with true-men who are no longer bluffed by their gifts. Meanwhile, there are mystics living in the countryside, unaware that their people have been exiled. King Charald announces any mystics who remain behind after they are exiled will be hunted down and executed.
Once again Rowena Cory Daniels demonstrates her exceptional writing ability in the middle part of ‘The Outcast Chronicles’. Daniells’ first part of this tale, ‘Besieged’ was a brilliant opening instalment describing events taking place over three decades. In ‘Exile’ the time frame, for the best part, is drastically shortened to around a year, which ups the pace, which was frantic enough in ‘Besieged’, so we were definitely off to a good start…
With the back story firmly set in place, and ‘Besieged’ ending on a massive cliff-hanger, Daniells opted to open ‘Exile’ by re-introducing some of the almost forgotten characters, namely the Malajune couple Asher, his wife Sasoria who is again pregnant and their four children, quickly bringing the time frame back into line, while focusing on the coming of age of both Aravella, the oldest who is a Malajune female, and Rollen her younger T’En brother, from the moment they witness their gentle and loving father kill a defenceless, unconscious human sailor who has washed up on shore where the family has lived in hiding to save their whereabouts from being discovered from the T’En society that would by rights separate the family forcing them to live apart for the rest of their lives. This does provide some very uncomfortable moments, which in turn do a wonderful job of displaying the powers and serious dangers of the T’En gift.
The story develops alongside many of the characters from the first novel and of course, introduces a healthy amount of new characters, both integrated seamlessly into the pressing events, namely the downward spiral of King Charald’s madness and his attempts to wipe out the ‘Wyrds’ from his now united Kingdom and Imoshen’s job of taking control of both the T’En Brotherhoods and more powerful Sisterhoods as their elected leader, in order to lead them into Exile and save them all, as much from themselves and their own segregated traditions and inner power struggles (including the ever expanding side story of the awful rule and oppressive Brotherhood of Kyredon, the backhanded dealings and vicious power struggles, and the growth of possibly my favourite character of this novel Graelen, which in all respects is worthy of a novel all to itself), as from being wiped out by the Mieren army waiting on the outside of their city walls.
With so much going on in the story, it’s again incredibly easy to follow and understand but the most prominent aspect of ‘Exile’, from beginning to end is Daniells’ ability to build characters, ad deliver emotion, whether in the form of hatred, happiness or absolutely heartbreaking despair, every, single individual character and their emotional reactions and development ensured that I was completely invested in what was going on and unable to put the book down once I’d started reading it.
It would likely be impossible to make sense of this as a stand alone novel, but, in all honesty, with a world as rich and vibrant as the one Daniells has created, I really don’t see why anyone would ever not want to read ‘Besieged’ in order to fully appreciate every single sentence of ‘Exile’.
Now that I’ve finished ‘Exile’ I can honestly say, hand on heart, that ‘The Outcast Chronicles’ has the potential to be, quite literally, the best trilogy I’ve picked up in a long time and if I didn’t have the final part, sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read I’d be on my way to the nearest bookshop right now… Gav.