Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Oracle's Queen - Lynn Flewelling

The Oracle's Queen is the third and final part of Lynn Flewelling's Tamir Triad. The book opens with a member of Lhel's people, the Hill Witches, a talented male witch named Mahti, making himself a new oo'lu (a musical instrument that appears akin to a didgeridoo and is used to create magic) and preparing to embark on a long journey to help two Southlanders, a young man and a girl, the latter with both male and female shadows. Mahti begins to make his way south to Skala, guided by Lhel. Prince Tobin in the meantime has been revealed as a girl, and has chosen the name Tamir, after an ancestor who was killed by her brother. Tamir and her squire Ki are still struggling to cope with Tamir's change of gender, but Tamir still intends to fulfill the prophecy of Illior (the Lightbearer), that "Skala shall never be subjugated" as long as a daughter of the ruling line sits on the throne. Unfortunately, her cousin Korin, who is now under the wizard Niryn's influence, as was his late father Erius, is claiming the throne of Skala for himself, and civil war seems inevitable.

Whilst the new Queen of Skala is dealing with the damage done by the Plenimaran invasion, the refugees and the survivors of the plague, winning reparation from a second Plenimaran invasion fleet (whom she sees in a vision and is able to defeat resoundingly), Niryn has manipulated Prince Korin into marrying a distant female cousin, Nalia, whom Niryn saved from Erius' purge of the ruling female line, and raised in secret. Niryn wants an heir from Korin before he allows the Prince to face Tamir in battle. Whilst Niryn is plotting, Tamir and Ki are struggling with their growing feelings for each other, which are complicated by Tamir's gender change and their past friendship. Their fellow Royal Companions are also torn between their friendship and admiration for Tamir/Tobin, and their sworn loyalty to Korin. It is clearly inevitable that at least some of them will be hurt badly by their divided loyalties.

I'm sorry to say that I found this book rather disappointing. The intense focus on relationship between Tamir and Ki, in particular their strong desire to have sexual intercourse, got in the way of the rest of the story I felt. This book was rather like Robin McKinley's Sunshine, in that the focus on the desire for sex between two characters weakens the rest of the story - I got to the stage where I wished they'd just get on and "do it", and then maybe we would get the rest of the story told properly, but frustratingly, this didn't happen. This book let down the series as a whole, which is a shame, because the premise was an interesting one. I also felt that Mahti's role was underplayed - more could have been made of this musically and magically talented witch man.

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