Saturday, August 27, 2005

Maggie Furey's 'Artefacts of Power' series - reprise

I finished this "Sword and Sorcery" series last night. Maggie Furey’s ‘Artefacts of Power’ series features four Artefacts, one for each of the four elements. The grail (made from a fragment of the Cauldron of Rebirth) uses water to resurrect the dead, the Staff of Earth, the Harp of Winds and the Sword of Flame. These four Artefacts are wielded by different Magefolk who, at the outset of the story, are few in number – and even fewer in number by its end. Miathan, the Archmage, is slain, but as he’s more of a Saruman than a Gandalf, he’s no loss. Eliseth the Weather Mage wrests power from Miathan and wreaks even greater havoc with the grail of Rebirth than did Miathan, for she uses it to restore and control those whom she has slain, making them into puppets who do her bidding. Meriel the Healer goes mad when her soulmate is killed and causes the deaths of quite a few people before being killed herself. Davorshan tries to kill his half-brother D’Arvan, but is killed himself by his brother. D’Arvan discovers he is half-Mage and half-Phaerie and finds himself ruling the city of Nexis to protect it from the depredations of his father, the Lord of the Phaerie. Finbarr the Archivist is killed protecting others from the creatures which Miathan looses from the grail of Rebirth; the Nihilim (as their name suggests) leave their victims dead – they’re clearly ancestors of the Dementors. Bragar the Fire Mage is sacrificed by Eliseth to protect herself. Eilin the Earth Mage lives far from Nexis in a self-imposed exile after her husband is led to his death by the machinations of Miathan. Only Eilin’s daughter, Aurian, and her soulmate Anvar (who is half-Mage and half-Mortal, and Miathan’s unacknowledged son) accompanied by disparate groups of Mortals and a couple of telepathic great cats manage to successfully oppose both Miathan and Eliseth.

Aurian wields the Staff of Earth, whilst Anvar wields the Harp of Winds, both are powerful artefacts of the old high magic, like the grail of Rebirth. Aurian attempts to claim the Sword of Flame, for she has discovered that she is the One for whom it was created, but in order to claim and wield it, she must bond to it via the blood of a loved one, and she refuses to do so. Eliseth seizes the Sword, only to discover she cannot wield it and it is not until the final battle with Eliseth (after Miathan has been killed), that Aurian is able to claim it. Her first lover, Forral, was killed by Miathan’s Nihilim and as a consequence of actions of Eliseth, his spirit comes to inhabit Anvar’s body (Anvar’s spirit is inhabiting the body of a hawk). He uses the Sword to kill Anvar and bond it to Aurian, who is then able to use the grail of Rebirth to resurrect Anvar, after she has killed Eliseth with the Sword. Once Aurian has used to the grail to resurrect various people who have been killed, she gives it to Death to take to his realm, knowing that it is far too dangerous to leave it in her world where it might fall into the wrong hands in the future. She returns the Sword of Flame to the dragons who created it, being repulsed by its power for destruction, but she and Anvar continue to wield the Staff of Earth and the Harp of Winds, both of which have power for good.

Reading this series is akin to reading The Lord of the Rings, both use changing points of view and narratives that follow different groups of characters, and both move backwards and forwards across large landscapes. In addition, whilst there is one key character whose destiny will affect the future of the whole world. Furey’s characters are well-drawn and realistic in their behaviour and motivations, and I found myself caring about even the “minor” characters. I highly recommend this series (Aurian, Harp of Winds, The Sword of Flame and Dhiammara) if you like the "Sword & Sorcery" style of fantasy.

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