Easanal Takes Her Rightful Place Amongst the Elves
The second book of the Chronicles of the Starborn is now out. “The Cliffs of Connemaigh” continues the saga so well begun in “The Autumn of the Whitewood”. Elaine is recognized by the elves as a helmannigr, a human with the soul of an elf, welcomed into Elven society and confirmed by the choosing and binding of her new name, Easanal. Quinero and she continue to search for a way to remove the blocks she still suffers from in wielding two of the elements. The solution appears on the horizon, even if not yet clearly defined. A dragon appears and is defeated, although not until a lead character is struck a near-fatal blow by its tail whip-lash. These are some of the elements around which the tale continues to be woven.
What struck me in reading the ” The Cliffs of Connemaigh” was the development of my attitude towards some of the characters, conditioned of course, by Dennis’s amplification of her characters. I’ll single out two in particular: Jack, and a new character who almost immediately became my favorite, Gannymede.
I didn’t much like Jack in the first book, but by the end of the second, I thoroughly loathed him. Jack is completely self centered and does not respect anyone else – not as individuals, and not as members of classes of individuals. He particularly harbors a feeling of obsessive ownership towards Elaine (I’ll refer to her by that name since Jack seems unwilling to even recognize Easanal’s true nature) that causes him to say and do the most objectionable things to her. This in spite of a tiny thread of introspection which continually has him saying to himself “I really screwed that up. I need to stop doing that.” Whenever he has that insight, it seems that his very next reaction to Elaine results in a doubling down on his dishonorable behavior. I found myself profoundly sorry that Jack wasn’t the one struck down by the dragon. Fatally. But, paying attention to the clues left by Dennis throughout the story, I suspect that Jack has yet a role to play, for good or bad, in this tale. I especially wonder if Jack isn’t the Fox in the Prophesies.
A new character introduced in the second book is Gannymede, a grindylow or water-being from the lake. And not just any grindylow, but their Chieftain. Elaine killed Gannymede’s brother, who had attacked two of her party at the lake’s edge. She then chased Gannynede into and under the water where she captured him and brought him to the surface. Gannymede revealed that he possesses knowledge about Elaine and Quinero which they themselves do not, but says little else. Throughout the book, Ganymede reveals a bit more, but only as much as is necessary and never too much so that the balance of things is not upset. It is obvious that Gannymede knows a great deal, and has a pivotal role to play. I can’ say that at this juncture I have a feeling for whether he is on the side of good or the side of evil. He may be simply outside the realm of either, much as Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings. In any case, I look forward to see his role in the coming tale.
If I can find anything at all to criticize, and that is perhaps too intense a word for it, it is the place of the tale told in the Prologue of a man’s flight through the land towards Connemaigh whilst pursued by the banshees. I was left wondering who the fugitive was, and even after his identity was revealed upon his arrival, I admit I did not think of either Dan or his companion Richard from the first book. Even after his arrival in the cliff town, that flight didn’t seem to mesh in with the rest of the story, or become an integral part of the whole. Perhaps there is more to come to tie them together?
All that I said in my review of the first book “The Autumn of the Whitewood” concerning Dennis’s skill in and style of writing holds true for this book. It is a stupendous read, flows quickly, and ends all too soon. Now I have to yet again wait for the next book. — Richard White