Friday, August 24, 2007

Review: Outremer Trilogy by Chaz Brenchley

The time of the Crusades is an interesting point in history. Christians from Europe tried to retake control of the Holy Land. Knights Templar came to prominence. There were many bloody battles in the name of religion. Fantasy author Chaz Brenchley uses this period of history as a template for his “Outremer” series. In this six book series, he explores clashes of cultures and religious strife, mixed with magic in a world similar to our own. Magical creatures such as the djinni and ifrit add intriguing touches to this gritty series of war and love.

The Devil in the Dust is the first book, beginning the story of two characters. Marron is a young warrior priest in training. He struggles with guilt and his religious beliefs, finding his religion cruel. Julianne is a young woman on her way to an arranged marriage to a baron. She is the daughter of the King’s advisor, trained in the ways of diplomacy and intrigue. Their lives change at the fortress Roq de Rancon after some events happen. Julianne meets a young girl Elisande and a djinni in the desert who gives her a destiny. Marron faces doubts about his faith in the face of several dark events. Mr. Brenchley creates a strong beginning with characters growing through an intriguing plot.

In Tower of the King’s Daughter, the second book, the story of Julianne and Marron continues. Julianne is confronted by the djinni again to go to the Sharai. She must seek a way to escape from her escort to save her father and is helped by her mysterious companion Elisande. After thwarting an attack on the fortress, Marron becomes the squire of Ransom knight Anton d’Escrivey. He finds himself torn between loyalties to the knight and justice for his friends, troubled by the fanaticism of the Order. The story builds to an interesting conclusion leading to the continuation in the next book. Mr. Brenchley keeps the plot tight with a dark edge to the story of Outremer.

A Dark Way to Glory, the next book, finds the characters on a long desert trek. Julianne wants to get to the desert city because of the djinni Khaldor’s prophecy. She travels with several companions from the previous books. Marron now struggles with an alien power in his body, growing distant from his friends with the passing days. They are joined by Sand Dancers, a group of fanatical men warriors waiting for the Ghost Walker to lead them into battle. The journey is grim with new surprises added by the author that deepens the story. This leaves readers wanting to get to the next book.

Events move quicker in the next book, Feast of the King’s Shadow. The main characters find respite in the Sharai Stronghold of Rhabat. This is a desert city carved into the cliffs of a secluded bay near a dead sea. Julianne finds herself drawn to the tribal leader Hasan, torn because of her marriage to another man. Marron finds himself in difficulties due to not being a member of the Sharai as their prophesied Ghost Walker. The companions find themselves threatened along with the Sharai by an army of ifrit. Again, Mr. Brenchley keeps the story moving to a cliff hanger ending, leaving a reader to seek the next book.

The fifth book, Hand of the King’s Evil, begins with a search for a missing character. Julianne has been kidnapped by an enemy. Her new husband seeks her with his army following at his back. Coren, Julianne’s father, and her various friends search for her across the desert. Marron helps in the search, but gets caught up in his own problems. In the wider world of Outremer, strange things happen. The ifrit and djinni continue to manipulate things for their own unknown purposes. A mysterious holy man who performs miracles leads his followers to a castle for reasons of his own. War looms by the end of the book for all factions.

The last book End of All Roads brings all the events into a final confrontation. Three armies battle over the nation of Surayon, leaving death and devastation in their wake. Marron is healed and the Daughter removed from him. He must now deal with being human again. Julianne must deal with her two husbands being in the same country. Their friends deal with their own difficult problem that move the story forward. Mr. Brenchley brings the final book to an interesting end with an unexpected twist.

Chaz Brenchley’s “Outremer” series is an exciting read set in a fascinating world based on the Crusades. Religious war, clashes of cultures and intervening spirit creatures mix into an in depth story of dark, gritty action. Characters pursue peace in a world torn by many problems. The author provides readers with an action packed story that leaves readers thinking after the series is finished.

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