Canticle picks up nine months after the closing events of Lamentation. The Named Lands still struggle to piece themselves back together after the horrific destruction of their greatest city, Windwir, the seat of the now disbanded religious order, the Androfrancines. Just as hope is really finding a foothold, as string of assassinations utilizing long forbidden blood magic strikes the lands. Further instability results as long-laid strategies reveal themselves, and the threat to the Named Lands may be greater than any imagined.
As I discussed in my review, one of the weaknesses to Lamentation is its slow start – it takes a lot of time and effort for momentum and any attachment to characters to build. In Canticle, Scholes is free from the shackles of set-up and it shows. Events start with bloody knives and roll on from there. Scholes’ seems much more comfortable in his writing and at times you can feel his enthusiasm. In short, his writing shows noticeable improvement in Canticle.
Approaching each chapter as a single point of view allows the reader to really get to the larger players of the game – these eight points of view show the variety of the lands and different pieces of the overall puzzle. In Canticle, the feeling of an over-arching puppet master increases, as those who thought they were in charge become further enlightened to their ignorance. More is revealed, yet with each revelation, more questions appear. Always dangling bait, occasionally allowing a nibble, Scholes leads the reader on an irresistible chase, a chase that will continue beyond Canticle.
Where Lamentation literally laments loss throughout, Canticle delves deep into the wonders of parenthood. Throughout Canticle, the wonder, joy, fears and sacrifice of all manner of parenthood underlies everything. A great king’s life is forever changed by the birth of his son – his perspective cannot help becoming centered on that tiny life, and he will sacrifice anything and everything for that wonder. A strong patriarch horrifically realizes that his only weakness is his family. An adopted father is killed, a religious leader sacrifices for his ‘children’, a dead and gone father’s plans and betrayals are revealed, a Queen learns what it means to be both Queen and mother…it all comes back to that very special love and its corresponding fears of parenthood. The religious overtones are present but not overwhelming, certainly not didactic, and tend towards universal truths that all can relate to. This exploration touched me on a deeper level due to my own relatively recent advent into the wonders of fatherhood, helping Canticle stand out even further.
Scholes’ second book, Canticle, shows significant improvement over his already impressive debut, Lamentation. This is an epic fantasy series that all fans should be reading – this is a series that should be talked about – this is something special. The song that is Canticle demands a response, a response that will come in the forthcoming Antiphon, a response that I cannot wait to see. 8-8.5/10
Related Posts: Review of Lamentation, Ken Scholes Answers Questions Five, Interview (long) with Ken Scholes, Review of Antiphon