The White Song by Phil Tucker
|Book Name:||The White Song|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||September 5, 2017 (US)|
Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers for the previews books in the series. Please read with caution if you have yet to finish the rest of the books.
It has all been building up to this.
At the end of The Iron Circlet, the kragh leader Tharok is beating down on both Kethe and Asho, only for Magister Audsley to take the Iron Circlet from him, and soon lose it to Zephyr (who, like most of Phil Tucker’s supporting cast, is wonderfully memorable), who put it on the control orb of Starkadr, releasing the demon horde which powered the fabled stone cloud.
Whew, sixty-six words for one sentence, which pretty much sums up the breakneck pace of The Iron Circlet. The White Song’s pace is just as fast, with everything from the interpersonal drama to the vibrant battle scenes I have come to expect from the Chronicles of the Black Gate.
The Iron Circlet’s ending sets up the final conflict, one which has been hinted at since we saw our first demons in The Path of Flames. All of the heroes and anti-heroes drop their conflicts against each other, and come together as their ambitions align for one goal: survival of humanity (and kragh-ity).
Yes, the stakes have gotten bigger, and as a reader, I’m not sure if I really appreciated it. I’m a big fan of epic fantasies with political maneuvering, backstabbing, and cavalry charges through a rain of arrows. The first four books delivered on that, in the struggles for earthly power: Lord against lord. Agerastos vs. the Ascendant Empire. The kragh against everyone.
By contrast, The White Song magnifies the climax of The Black Shriving a hundred fold, with battle after battle against demon hordes. The characters have grown in personality and power incrementally throughout the series, but it feels like some took huge leaps in order to face the challenges of saving the world. In many ways, the scope of the conflict overshadows their own personal struggles—the very aspect which I felt gave the Chronicles of the Black Gate a soul. Don’t get me wrong, character growth and evolving relations are still there, and the budding and blooming romances and bromances still kept me satisfied. In addition, they all contribute with their own unique skills toward the resolution of the story—in contrast to one of my complaints about The Iron Circlet, where Tharok had plotted to kill the medusa he’d turned into a godly figurehead, only to have Tiron and his dragons do the job for him.
Furthermore, many of the loose threads are finally tied up. Though the magic link between Kethe and Asho is shown throughout the series, and explained by an unreliable source in book four, we get to see it replicated between the Ascendant’s Consecrated and Sincasters. The most burning question for me was left unanswered in book four: who created the Iron Circlet, and for what reason?
However, though Tucker ties up many of these loose ends, he ends up creating a quite a few more. In the end, the world emerges from an epic conflict shattered. We do not learn how Ascendancy will evolve, if at all. We don’t know how kragh society will be after their invasion of the Ascendant Empire. An ancient religion looks like it will be revived, but where and how, we don’t know. Some of the viewpoint characters don’t make it. Others are left damaged, perhaps permanently. The whereabouts and health of several secondary characters is uncertain, while others we have come to love die unceremoniously enough that they it is almost an emotionless afterthought. Overall, I wouldn’t describe it as a happy ending.
All that said, The White Song is a beautifully written, exquisitely world-built, and thoroughly engaging novel. Some of the dialog is so stirring, it almost melted even my lead heart. I would expect no less after having read the first four books. We meet new interesting secondary characters, chief among them the Artificer and his army of C-3POs.
At the end of The Iron Circlet, I did not allow Mr. Tucker to Ascend past Sigean. I was sorely tempted to have him Descend a level with The White Song, but it is still an enjoyable enough story for me to keep him there. On my objective scale, I rate book five an 8.22222222, or about the same as Bojangles friend chicken compared to KFC.
Side Note 1: Noah Michael Levine delivers yet again in his amazing narration of the audiobook. His range of accents and broader tone and pace really brought the entire series to life. After having listened to another narrator, I realize even more what a gem he is!
Side Note 2: I spoke with Mr. Tucker, and he assures me he has more stories to tell in the world of the Chronicles of the Black Gate. We will indeed see what happens in the future, and hopefully tie up the uncertainties left in The White Song.