I finished reading David B. Coe's The Outlanders last evening. That in itself is a testimony to just how good the novel was, considering that I wrote the review for Children of Amarid less than a week ago. But like its predecessor, this sequel was a wonderful read.
The second volume of the LonTobyn Chronicle, the novel begins 4 years following the events which took place in Children of Amarid. Once again, I don't want to include any spoilers, so I won't give anything away pertaining to the plot.
Just a reminder that this novel, along with the opening chapter of the trilogy, earned the author the William L. Crawforf Award, for best first fantasy series. And in light of the quality of these two very interesting novels, I would tend to agree that this award was more than deserved.
Once more, the characterizations are above and beyond what fans have come to expect in today's market. It would have been easy for Mr. Coe to simply continue with the same bunch of three-dimensional characters we were introduced to in Children of Amarid. In my opinion, this aspect of the book established the author as something special the first time around. Hence, I was quite surprised when I discovered that Coe elected to turn his back on most of those characters -- so to speak -- and let the readers explore the technological world of Lon-Ser through the eyes of Orris. His irritable attitude made him less likeable than Jaryd and the rest of the characters. So to some extent, this was a bit of a challenge for the author.
Needless to say, Mr. Coe pulled this off like a master. Not only do we get to learn more about Orris and appreciate him, but the author once again showed that he has a knack for characterizations that leave you wanting for more. Orris' character is well drawn, giving us a new perspective on him. Indeed, you see the mage in a different light compared to the image he projected in Children of Amarid. In addition, The Outlanders introduces us to another group of characters, and the story progresses through their different POVs. Which not only allows the readers to discover more about Lon-Ser and its history and political system, etc, but it also shows just how Coe's worldbuilding continues to be impressive. And the fact that he can even make you like the villains demonstrates just how good Coe is when it comes to creating engaging characters.
So it's through the eyes of Melyor, Jibb, Cedrych, Gwilym and many others that we learn more about this technological and violent world that is Lon-Ser. Also, discovering concepts such as technology and pollution through Orris' eyes is also quite interesting.
Again, the quality of the prose is far beyond what is currently the norm in the fantasy fiction field. Like its predecessor, The Outlanders is elegantly written.
I've snooped around on the internet, reading reviews of the book before writing my own. As I expected, most people truly enjoyed it. But most negative reviews were in regard of the political rift that continues to drive member of the Order apart. Many people claimed that the never-ending feud between Sonel's and Erland's factions within the Children of Amarid is unrealistic. I have to admit that I found that more than a little odd, but perhaps that has more to do with where I'm from and with the political system I am forced to live with. I'm a Canadian, which in and of itself means that I have to suffer a minority government that, in effect, cannot accomplish anything without the support of one or more parties that comprise the Chamber of Commons. Try to get anything done within the confines of that type of government, and you'll soon realize just how realistic the Order's problems can be. But not only that, I am also a resident of the province of Québec, where left-wing parties have held the reins of governing for years now. The problem is that this province needs a lot of changes at the moment, if we are to have a bright future. But the «old school» mentalities prevent our government from taking steps in the right direction. They are acutely aware that something must be done, but they show reticence at every turn and refuse to consider any alternative that goes againt what they have "built" in the last several decades. As a matter of course, they debate endlessly about this and that, refusing to acknowledge that something must be done, if we are to find solutions to our problems. For the last decade or so, they have been more than glad to re-arrange those problems, in the hope that perhaps they will go away. So in light of all this, I don't find the Order's political problems unrealistic at all. In fact, Erland is so much like many of our politicians that he antagonized me to no end!:-)
The pace of this second installment was a bit faster than in the previous book. There is more action and more surprises. More worldbuilding, giving us a glimpse of Coe's imagination. And if this is any indication, this writer has (hopefully) many more ideas and novels that will please us for years to come!
All in all, The Outlanders is the perfect sequel to Children of Amarid. And I will now eagerly read the last chapter of the trilogy, Eagle-Sage. Not since Robin Hobb's The Farseer series has the first two books of a trilogy showed so much promise. Let's just hope that the final volume delivers the sort of finale that will make the LonTobyn Chronicle a must-own series for any fantasy collection. . .
The final verdict: 9/10. As good a novel as I've read in quite a while. . .
Stay tuned for more!