Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Reavers of Skaith

The Reavers of Skaith (The Book of Skaith, Vol. 3)

The Reavers of Skaith by Leigh Brackett is the conclusion of the Eric John Stark trilogy. Stark has been betrayed by the starship captain he was counting on to get him offworld. Stark had come to the world of the ginger star to rescue his friend Simon Ashton from the Lords Protector, the overlords of that world. Thus began a journey across half a world, from the only starport to the Citadel of the Lords Protector, in the far north. Stark succeeded in freeing Ashton, and in the process gained the allegiance of the Northhounds, great telepathic guardians of the Citadel- until Stark came and wrenched their loyalties away through sheer force of will.

As the third book opens the starship captain they negotiated with has ransomed back the people he was going to take to the Galactic Union and has taken Stark in the bargain. He now intends, with two other ships, to pillage this world and make a tidy profit. Stark and Ashton escape, of course, but with all roads closed to them, they must venture into the humid south of the planet, to seek new allies and try to find a new way offworld.

Gerrith the wise woman, meanwhile, leads a company south to meet Stark and save him from the doom she sees in her visions. Gerrith foresees that Stark yet lives, and their fates are intertwined. The two parties soon meet, and continue their journey across a dying world, hoping to win back to the starships and the stars beyond. Complicating matters is the rapid decay of climate conditions- the cold is returning, more quickly than anticipated, and this is causing great upheaval. THe situation gets desperate as Stark and his companions must once more face the Lords Protector, for the fate of a world- and themselves.

This was a satisfying and compelling conclusion to a fine saga. Brackett's prose is tight and focused- the story is always moving, something is always happening. The dialogue and characterization are solid as well, although Gerrith could use a larger role. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, and this is a fascinating world- the nights are illuminated not by a moon, of which there is none, but by three milky white star clusters that rise and set at different times. I enjoyed this book a great deal, although I did think things fell into place a little too easily, and everything wrapped up a bit too tidily. Also Stark is a bit of an antihero- he is only too willing to kill to achieve his ends, and by uprooting a society his actions cause a lot of death, although one can argue that this would have occurred anyway. And I understand his motivation- he is trying to survive, and save his friend, and get offworld- but still, the odds do make it difficult to take this too seriously. In spite of that, this is a fun read, and a great planetary adventure, and is compellingly readable.

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