Melanie Rawn
The Ruins of Ambrai (Exiles, Volume 1)
DAW Books 1994

First Daughter Maichen Ambrai got two daughters with her husband, Auvry Feiran. Glenin was the eldest, always her father's daughter, the one he took with him when he left his wife in Ambrai and moved to the Lenfell's political centre, Ryka Court, to serve the Council and First Councillor Anniyas. Sarra, the second, was five years old when her father brought the Council's destruction upon her home city, running for her life with her mother, losing ervything and everyone else she had loved. Cailet, the child conceived in Auvry and Maichen's last love meeting, is a secret to the world. An important secret. Because these three children are all important in the struggle between Mage Guardians and the Lords of Malerris.

Lenfell's history has been a struggle between the two factions of Mageborns, the Mage Guardians of Ambrai and the Lords of Malerris. Mage Guardian policy has been to serve the rulers, not to rule themselves. The Lords of Malerris have seen things differently: to receive best possible results for everybody, you have to rule. The world is just a great fabric, the leader of the Lords the Master of the Loom who needs total control to make it perfect.

Glenin soon becomes an important person in Ryka Court. Daughter of Auvry Feiran, but also married to the son of First Councillor Anniyas. And secretly a powerful mage, taught by the Lords of Malerris.

Sarra becomes part of the resistance against Anniyas' rule, as well as the adopted heir of an old Blood family. Soon enough she is in the centre of everything, focusing on her inevitable clash with her elder sister.

Cailet... Well, let's just keep some things secret, but rest assured, she'll have an important role to play as well.

Being a major fantasy writer, there'll have a lot of expectations whenever one of your bricks is being published. There's got to be at least 500 pages of action, romance and intrigues. It's got to be a page-turner. And it should be like everything else, but different or you'll be accused of being a copy-cat or repeating yourself. Well, Ms. Rawn lives up to the expectations pretty well, I'd say. This book (more than 800 pages of action, romance and intrigues) has got everything a fantasy bestseller should have, but also a sister rivalry theme that's eternal but hasn't been used very frequently in fantasy novels, as far as I can recall. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.) It also contains discussions on important topics of today.

The first is about gender. What would be different in a matriarchy, if women ruled the world. Ms. Rawn turns things upside-down, just to make us realize how absurd it is to think of a lot of obviously cultural expressions as natural. Sometimes I think she's overdoing it, makes it too simple, but the point is taken.

The second, and maybe more important, is about totalitarianism. Who has the right to decide anyone else's future? The Lords of Malerris think they have the right to choose who should live and who should die, who's to become a doctor and who's to become a street-sweeper. This century has seen a lot of totalitarian regimes: in Germany, Italy, the Sowiet Union, China, Cambodja, to mention a few. None of them has been quite as extreme as the Lords of Malerris, but it isn't for lack of trying. I don't know the author's personal political agenda, but the right to take control of your own life isn't essentially a political issue, but a personal, and Ms. Rawn has a strong message: Don't let anyone take that right away from you.

An interesting book that makes you think. That's good value for your money, if you ask me.

Karl Henriksson

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Other books by Melanie Rawn:
The Mageborn Traitor (Exiles, Volume II)
The Golden Key (w/ Kate Eliott and Jennifer Roberson

Exiles: The Official Melanie Rawn Website (personal home page)
A Tribute to Melanie Rawn (fan page)

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