The Wanderers by Paula Brandon
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Time is running out. Falaste Rione is imprisoned, sentenced to death. And even though the magical balance of the Source is slipping and the fabric of reality itself has begun to tear, Jianna Belandor can think only of freeing the man she loves. But to do so, she must join a revolution she once despised—and risk reunion with a husband she has ample reason to fear.
Meanwhile, undead creatures terrorize the land, slaves of the Overmind—a relentless consciousness determined to bring everything that lives under its sway. All that stands in the way is a motley group of arcanists whose combined powers will barely suffice to restore balance to the Source. But when Jianna’s father, the Magnifico Aureste Belandor, murders one of them, the group begins to fracture under the pressures of suspicion and mutual hatred. Now humanity’s hope rests with an unexpected soul: a misanthropic hermit whose next move may turn the tide and save the world.”
One of the things that I found interesting about this series is how the threat of magical catastrophe is contrasted with more mundane events. The group of arcanists traveling to one of the spots where the Source is strongest is beset with petty internal squabbling, despite the seriousness of their quest. Cities that are being overrun with zombie-like creatures continue to oppress lower classes and the reptilian Sishmindri instead of turning their energies to combating the undead problem. It’s fascinating, and sometimes frustrating, to watch how people can fail to put the greater good ahead of their own concerns.
I also liked how the zombies were portrayed, which I’ve talked about in previous reviews of this series. In this world, there’s a reason for the existence of the zombies, and it relates to the Overmind, who uses them to its advantage. They don’t eat flesh and they don’t terrorize people; rather, their presence warps reality and causes distress of a different kind.
This particular novel didn’t move as fast as the others did. It’s almost as if this book suffers from “middle book of a trilogy syndrome”, despite its being the final volume. There’s a lot of talking and a lot of setting up for the major events near the novel’s end, and there’s also a lot of traveling. I’m not big on novels where the characters wander in the wilderness for too long, because I tend to feel that it makes the narrative wander right along with it. It’s not too bad in this book, but there are long stretches where not much happens.
Despite that, I did enjoy this book. The author did an excellent job of worldbuilding, and I hope that she goes back and writes more stories in this setting. There are quite a few things that would be interesting to explore, such as the nature of their magic and some of the history that led to things being the way they are.
The Wanderers has a few minor hiccups in its pacing, but overall it’s a solid conclusion to a fantasy trilogy that should have gotten more attention. Creative ideas and good worldbuilding make this a successful fantasy tale. I hope you take the time to read it and recommend it to others as well.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 30, 2013.