Saturday, February 18, 2012

Second Sight by Greg Hamerton: A Book Review

As usual, I feel the strong, though admittedly illogical need to qualify the following book review by stating the obvious: I'm just me. I'm not a genre expert, a literary degree-holder, a well-read and -traveled industry pillar... I'm just a fantasy fan with a small forum in which to express my thoughts on a variety of subjects, including books that I feel are worth commenting on, be they awesome, mediocre, lame, etc. I am obviously under no obligation to voice such opinions; I am moved by sheer whim only. These are the thoughts of a reader, not unlike yourself, I'm sure.

That having been said, I present to you the following.

Second Sight, by Greg Hamerton: A Review
It was with no small amount of trepidation that I continued reading the story of the adventures of Tabitha Serannon and her friends/adversaries, which was begun so wonderfully by Greg Hamerton in The Riddler's Gift. My history with fantasy series' has, for the most part, been spotty at best, and I really didn't want to taint the wonderful experience of my time with Riddler's Gift by consuming a sub-par sequel. Ultimately, after dabbling with a couple of other titles in my library, I took a deep breath and dove into Second Sight, which is the next volume in the Tales of the Lifesong.

In short, I need not have worried.

If reading The Riddler's Gift is comparable to enjoying an amazing, detailed work of art in an art gallery somewhere, then reading Second Sight would be the equivalent of stepping outside the art gallery and enjoying/contemplating the stars.

The vast bulk of The Riddler's Gift takes place within the confines of a relatively small, protected kingdom called Eyri, which is squirreled away within the much larger realm known by the (rather unoriginal) name of Oldenworld. Eyri was protected under a shield-dome of magic and hidden from the rest of the world so that it could be kept safe from the ravages of a fascinating, multi-layered sorcerer-villain named Ametheus, who is every bit as powerful as the Gyre of Wizards that oppose him. The eight members of the Gyre combine their might endlessly in an effort to thwart Ametheus, and part of their plan has been to keep Eyri safe and hidden, so that a ninth Wizard could be produced there, in order to help the balance of power against Ametheus to sway in their favor. If they can defeat him once and for all, the world could be saved from his unbridled chaos and destruction.

So once the long-awaited ninth wizard appeared (Tabitha, the Lifesinger), the next step was to get her out of the protected environment of Eyri and convince her to join the Gyre in their struggle against Ametheus, out in the real world.

Thus, Second Sight sees Tabitha and a handful of other Eyrians leave Eyri and embark on an epic journey across Oldenworld to face unfathomable challenges and obstacles, en route to a final face-off against not only Ametheus, but against the God that created him to begin with.

Second Sight works on many levels. It has a fascinating cast of characters, both major and minor. It has interesting, varied environments. It has plenty of action and suspense, with near-perfect pacing. But to me, most  importantly, it dealt with huge issues, both temporal and eternal, mortal and divine, in a way that not only didn't distract from the story-telling, but greatly enhanced it.

Tabitha is in over head her, swept along by forces far greater than her, trying not only to get her mind around her unique gifts, but also to understand the gifts/abilities of the other wizards, and those of her enemy Ametheus as well, all while attempting the impossible task of finding and freeing a captured God.

The Riddler is one enigmatic member of the Gyre of Wizards, who is tasked with helping Tabitha mature faster than is likely possible, due to the pressing needs produced by the dire world circumstances, all while keeping her from being mishandled by the rest of the well-intentioned members of the Gyre, and trying to unravel what could be a betrayal-in-progress within the Gyre itself.

Ashley decided on whim to tag along with Tabitha as she made her exodus from Eyri out into Oldenworld, and quickly finds himself separated, alone in a crazy, dangerous world, with only his wits and his unique gift to help him survive... and ultimately thrive.

Ametheus is a demi-god of sorts, the product of a union between a human and the Destroyer. He has three very distinct personality facets, represented as three brothers trapped within the same body. His unrestrained goal is to destroy all magic and bring total chaos on the world. Initially presented as pure evil and chaos, the layers are slowly pulled back until, as a reader, you begin to wonder if you could be rooting for the wrong team after all...

That is the tip of the iceberg. I could elaborate on other characters, such as the spoiled Prince Bevn, seductive shadowcaster Gabrielle, the duplicitous Black Saladon, conflicted former Swordsmaster Garyll Glavenor, the other members of the Gyre... but those words would be wasted at this point, confusing the point I'm trying (ever-so-amateurishly) to make.

There are grand issues tackled in these pages, transcending the basic story. Issues dealing with the balance between chaos and order (and the pitfalls of allowing either to dominate unchecked); issues dealing with understanding and correctly employing power(s); issues dealing with the benefits and pitfalls of both mortality and immortality; issues of courage and fear, apathy and ambition, violence and love/life. One the one hand, it's a straight-up classic fantasy epic. On the other hand, it is so much more. I suppose what a reader brings into the reading will determine which hand dominates the experience.

I realize that the odds are high that I am simply the perfect target audience for this particular book/series, a happy case of literary serendipity whereby the perfect reader and the perfect book find each other in the midst of the vast sea of options out there. Your reading experience may end up being different than mine, for any number of reasons, especially now that I've propped this series up on a pedestal as I have. So be it. All I can do in this case is present my honest opinion, unmotivated by anything beyond my desire to share something wonderful with those that give my opinion of such things at least a modicum of weight.

Summary: 5/5 A thorough "win." A grand adventure, with memorable characters and events, resolving itself brilliantly. A massive amount of "food for thought" included, for those that like to eat while they read. Not perfect, per se, but perfect for me. As much as I enjoyed The Riddler's Gift, I enjoyed Second Sight yet more and more.


David Wagner said...

Just checked the price over on Amazon, and it appears Second Sight is free this weekend (2/18-2/19). Go grab it while you can, Kindle owners! Trust me, it's worth whatever price they want to charge for it - free is awesome.

Anonymous said...

!!!! Excellent! I've just started The Riddler, and you know how I feel about waiting for fantasy sequels.

Thanks for the review, with so many offerings available, it's helpful to have recommendations.

Beth A.

logankstewart said...

How in the world do I keep missing out on these free book deals?! Oh well. That's okay. I've got the first added to my TBR for next year. Great review, friend. You're selling this well.

BTW: I despise the new CAPTCHA things...

Ethan said...

HI! (: