Anyway, this got me to thinking: I should make my own meme! For none of those in existence excite me. And lo, I also remembered that it is much cheaper to re-read books than it is to buy new ones (yes, it's random. I am that way.) So I thought, "I should do a random review of a book in my personal library once a day! And if I can't remember it well enough to review it, I should re-read it!"
And thus was born the new infinite-part series (since I doubt I'll stop buying books any time soon).
It amuses me that the first book I pick out of my pile of stuff is the first book in a young adult series. I don't have many of those anymore (though I was once very fond of the Crestomanci books, from whence came my fervent wish that my mother had passed down her left-handedness rather than her meekness - wait, I still wish that), but the few I do still have are, in my humble opinion, extremely good. They certainly set me on my way to loving speculative fiction.
Today's book, Prince of the Godborn by Geraldine Harris, is one of those books.
It starts off with the story of two brothers, the first one a full-blooded prince, third son of the reigning emperor of the land of Galkis, named Kerish-lo-Taan. He's a spoiled minx of a child, small, physically weak, petty, but with the potential to grow out of it, into a really thoughtful, caring person. This is not likely to be supported by his surroundings, though.
The other brother is Lord Forollkin, Kerish's half-brother. Because his parents didn't go through the rituals necessary for him to be one of the Godborn, he's as normal as can be: strong, athletic, confident, and with very little power in this power structure. He's everything his brother isn't, and vice versa.
The country of Galkis is ruled by a theocracy, where the emperor is also the leader of the church as the head of a family descended from their god, Zeldin. The family is well on the path of the Roman emperors: corruption, decadence, ennui - and threatened from the outside by barbarians who would ban the worship of their goddess, Imarko.
And since the emperor loves Kerish dearly, since the prince reminds him of the boy's dead mother, his dead wife (a particularly creepy relationship - before the one scene in this book, Kerish had never even been touched by his father in the sixteen years of his life), the emperor sends Kerish, with Forollkin as protection, out of the country on a desperate mission to find the savior of their country, a person legend says is locked behind seven gates, each key to each gate in the possession of a different sorcerer, scattered around the known world. It's a crazy long shot that is more aimed at getting the emperor's favorite son out of the country before the invasion happens.
In this first book of the series, Kerish wins the keys of the first two sorcerers, while growing up quite a lot along the way. He makes a lot of mistakes - mistakes that cost the lives of others, and he's haunted by it. He learns that when these sorcerers give him their keys, they lose their immortality - beings that are centuries old, incredibly intelligent (note: not necessarily wise) and ambitious have to be persuaded with real arguments. The first sorcerer is the king of Ellerinonn, a country focused on the present, even though their king refuses to let them make their own way. The second is the brother of the first, a boy trapped in his childhood, wrecking ships for the fun of it, who's never grown up. Kerish gets a taste of his own medicine there, forced to deal with the childishness of a much more powerful person.
The book ends with the quest going on to the next sorcerer, a route that will lead them through a huge swamp to the snow-covered tops of the mountains at the roof of the world.
This is one of my favorite books, though I'm sure it's tinged by nostalgia. It's full of familiar tropes from the fantasy epic: a quest, unequal brothers, a ruling race blessed by its god, separated from the plebes by distinctive looks (black hair, purple eyes), and I don't know how I'd respond to it today, were I to read it afresh. Still, it hooks me right in that place in my chest that aches every time I read a truly satisfying fantasy novel. There's justice, honor, that sense of the sacred that I only tolerate in fiction, and lots of angst for the main characters. This isn't wish fulfillment, it's a journey - and one whose end is the first book that made me weep.