It pleases me to see that Australian author Jennifer Fallon is slowly starting to receive some well deserved international attention. Her recent ‘Tide Lords’ quartet garnered a couple of positive reviews, and I’ve seen some blogs posting about her latest series ‘The Undivided.’
But I want to talk now about one of her older, less known, set of books; The Second Sons trilogy, comprising of 'The Lion of Senet,' 'Eye of the Labyrinth,' and 'Lord of the Shadows.' It’s a shame that these books haven’t received a lot more attention, because they’re really pretty great.
The title "Second Sons" is a clever little play on words. The trilogy concerns it self with the second sons of two powerful families, but the plot also hinges on the second sun in the world's sky. Ranadon has two suns you see, a large one which sets like ours, and a second one which never sets. Except for this one time when it did. A generation or so ago the second sun set, ushering in a disastrous dark age. And here’s where things get interesting. A super genius dude was able to predict when the dark age would end (with the power of maths!), and he told his priestess friend. She uses this information to convince the big ruler dude, aka The Lion of Senet, to sacrifice his son to end the dark age, and because she knows the time it will end it appears the goddess was talking through her.
But (the plot thickens) the super genius dude didn’t just predict when the dark age would end, he predicted when the next one would start. And priestess girl, who’s now insanely powerful high priestess lady, kind of needs that info to maintain her credibility. (It would be bad for her health if the ruler found out he sacrificed his first born for nothing…) Too bad super genius guy hasn’t been seen in decades.
But! There is another young lad with the brainpower to figure it out. This is Dirk, one of the "second sons" in the title. He and the Lion of Senet's son Kirsh are the main tagonists of the books. Not a typo. Tagonsts. It's a word I just made up. They're not protagonists (good guys), they're not antagonists (bad guys) they're just people. They do good things, they do shitty things, and believe me when I say they'll break your heart. This true for most of the characters in the trilogy. There is no black and white here, trust me. The Lion of Senet, in particular, is very well done. It would have been easy to make him a straight up villain, what with him killing his own son and all. But Fallon makes him a far more complex character than that. He’s fanatical in his his religious views, and a lot of the plot is driven by this. But what choice does the guy have? To admit that his religion might not be all-knowing would be to admit that he sacrificed his son for nothing. It makes for compelling reading let me tell you.
And the ending. Ah, the ending. It’s one of those ends that hits you like a punch to the gut, that stays with you for months or years or hell, probably the rest of your life. Years later and I find myself thinking of these books at odd times, running over in my mind the course of events that made things in the final volume play out the way they did. There is nothing so impressive as a book drawing to a perfect and inevitable close, with all the small pieces set in place over the three books leading to one magnificent finale.
They're not perfect, I'll admit that. These were written early in Fallon's career when she was still smoothing out her prose a little. She gets a bit heavy with the adverbs (he said sadly, she yelled angrily, he sighed ecstatically, and so on) but it's certainty not enough to ruin the enjoyment of the story.
So, just in case you couldn’t tell. These books: I recommend them. (And I bought them.)