Patrick Briotte- Staff Writer
Even the most powerful of empires may not resist the ravages of time. Some fall to numerous enemies while others run dry of the resources necessary to keep society as they know it strong. The empire of the Great Khagan faces one such challenge in the form of a brutal civil war. Created by Elizabeth Bear, the world of Range of Ghosts presents readers with a work influenced by the mid-to-late twelfth century of Central Asia.
In the midst of a brutal war, a group of individuals must come together from radically different kingdoms as the peaceful existence they had known for years prior is taken away from them. Entire royal dynasties are being thrown into disarray as numerous people are making violent grabs for power. Elsewhere, a malevolent force is manipulating the conflict on a grand scale. The plan by this devious opponent is to strike when each kingdom is at a point weak enough to be unable to resist one final push for world domination.
The strength of a story such as Range of Ghosts is how the narrative is best driven by the individuals coming together. The protagonists have come from their own lives, not out of choice but necessity, and have left behind the familiar worlds they each came from to be part of something greater than themselves. In this small party of heroes, the narrative itself focuses around Temur and Samarkar. Temur is the grandson of the Great Khagan while Samarkar had to abandon her role as princess of the Rasa dynasty to take up the mantle of a wizard. The relationships that develop are strongly tied to the growth of camaraderie as each member of the group represents of the ideals of their respective kingdom. If they are to survive this ordeal together, they must learn how to work together while compensating for the weaknesses of each adventurer.
Going even further, these connections show how complex each person in this group is. Being more than archetypes, the reader feels a strong sense of individualism from each person. The kingdoms that each character was raised in has an established society, religious belief systems and even clashing ideologies around the idea of conflicting gender politics. For many fantasty stories, it can be a distinctive problem for people to be lost in the grand scheme of things. Despite how the wars fought are on a very grand scale, the reader never once loses track of the personal elements that keep a person invested in the story.
Overcoming great tragedy and death as the war rages around them, this ragtag group of heroes is the last hope for a peaceful existence to be brought back to the land as a whole. For readers who are eager to try a fantasy novel that reminds us what it is like to have hope in the face of impossible odds, as well as forming bonds to last a lifetime, Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts is a wonderful entry point as the first book of the Eternal Sky trilogy.