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The Sacred Band by Janet E. Morris and Chris Morris

The Sacred Band by Janet E. Morris and Chris Morris
Book Name: The Sacred Band
Author: Janet E. Morris and Chris Morris
Publisher(s): Kerlak Enterprises
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: April 15, 2011 (US) April 1, 2011 (UK)

From the very first chapter of The Sacred Band, I had a feeling about how I wanted to write this review, and the further in I went, the more certain I became. Reading this book from Janet Morris and Chris Morris is exactly like meeting an old classmate from high school, some 25 or 30 years after you’ve graduated and gone your separate ways out into the world to make your fortunes.

And when I say exactly, I mean exactly. Because the characters in this book, well I first met them and became close with them back in the mid-1980s, back in high school. Critias, Straton, Nikodemos, Tempus (oh Tempus!), and the rest of his Sacred Band of Stepsons. Perhaps we weren’t exactly friends, but I did have more than a nodding acquaintance with them, yes, and with the rest of the residents of the shared-universe fantasy world of Sanctuary.

Some decades later, I waxed nostalgic and revisited the past, as folk are wont to do. You may have read the result, a pair of reviews of the Thieves’ World series of books that appeared on this site last year. And in the process, I had a chance to find out what these characters are up to in the present. Because TSB was written in 2010, and just as on our side of the page, some decades have passed between the days of Thieves’ World and the setting of The Sacred Band.

And just as I have – well, let’s not say ‘aged’ shall we, let’s use a different word – just as I have matured, grown more complex, so have the Stepsons. Or more accurately, so has the writing of Janet Morris and Chris Morris. Their prose was never what one would call simplistic, but here, it has attained an additional pleasant depth and richness.

And as happens when old classmates meet after years-long separations, conversation inevitably turns to other mutual acquaintances. Is Illyra still around? Oh, yes, and her son Arton – you knew she had a boy? – he’s a Stepson now. Old Molin Torchholder? Yes, he’s still as big an ass as ever. Ischade and Enas Yorl, Walegrin and Myrtis, Jihan and Randal, yes, a lot of the old gang is still around. While others are gone forever, lost or dead.

In other words, exactly like meeting an old classmate from high school.

I suppose it would be appropriate to touch upon the plot of the book. By way of holy intervention, Tempus shepherds his Sacred Band of Stepsons from the Thieves’ World universe, to what I understand to be our world, to the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE. Their mission is to save 46 fighters – 23 pairs – of the Sacred Band of Thebes, fated dead who would otherwise be slaughtered by the Macedonian forces.

It doesn’t really give the story away to note that our Stepsons are successful, and they return to the world of Sanctuary, where they are faced with the task of assimilating the new warriors, and their goddess, into a new existence. And they have to deal with the storm god. And an assassin wizard boy. And magic weapons. And a war with the Dream Lord. Fighting an army of the undead. And raping and killing. Lots of raping and killing. Because plus ça change

There you have it. Book review as high-school reunion. Catching up with old acquaintances, and wondering why it took you so long to do so. Bittersweet memories of our youth. And an appreciation of the effect of the years and miles that have brought us to where we are today.


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