Author: S. Kaeth
The priestess searches for her faith.
The fire-wielder wrestles with her past.
The psion dreams of peace.
And the hero is torn between his heart and his duty.
While grief scatters the four protectors to the winds, outside forces write history according to their own whims. The fate of the Rinaryns lies twined with that of the boy, Eian, caught in a tug of war the heroes are unaware of.
But the evidence lies waiting for Taunos and the others to see, if only they can move past their betrayal.
Rating: Unforgettable, Compelling Characters and Story, Thoughtful, Inspiring and Hopeful
The First Review:
I only have to open up the book to be reminded again why I found this series so special. Taunos, Kaemada, Ra’ael, Takiyah – all of them are broken in one way or another and have a journey before them to wholeness. The whole story breathes hope, not wishful thinking, but the finding of one’s self, one’s truth, the finding of goodness and beauty and healing, life, that survives and even thrives amidst all the horrible things that happen, without dismissing the pain, grief, and evil at all. The characters feel so real, like real people, in real life, with so much meaning. In a sense, this story is about all four, who have been broken in various different ways by events in Between Starfalls (or even get broken down some more) discovering or re-discovering their ideals or at least how to live their ideals, their dreams, their hopes.
This is about Taunos, who has always put the duty he was given by the Elders of his people above his life – not just in the physical sense, but in almost every other sense as well, denying his heart and his love, keeping the secrets that built walls even between him and his dearly-beloved sister, Kaemada, discovering that the choice he was told he had to make is a lie. It is about his nobility and courage, clinging to hope, when he has been betrayed by those for whom he worked and suffered and bled in wars that were not his, and how even that betrayal allows him to see things and to re-discover and gain what he lost – or nearly ruined – in years past.
This is about Ra’ael, who can’t hear the song of the spirits past her pain and trauma and betrayal, and the despair of what she sees is her place in the world as Fallen, and how she tries to find a place for herself in her new world. Her despair and feeling that she can’t live as a kaetal with her friends. Her search to find a place, a friend, some way to know her path that’s always been so clear before. Her discovery there’s more to life and who she is than the rules.
This is about Takiyah, ruined and embittered by her torture as a captive of the Kamalti, hating, or at least fearing and usually despising all Kamalti and running from everything in the depths of her trauma, drawn by the nature of her race towards the sea and towards metal-working. This is about Takiyah, unwilling to trust or rely on anyone or anything, to make any friends, since, in the end, she feels she’s always been abandoned, let down, or even turned against by anyone and everyone. This is about how she finds herself, re-discovers hope and meaning, and then tries to re-unite with the friends who make her who she is.
This is about Kaemada, the dreamer, how even when she believes that she has ruined everything, that her presence spoils all she loves, that she is at best useless and her gifts hurt everyone around her and everyone she tries to help, she always hopes for peace, believes in making peace, in making things right, in goodwill and spreading goodwill. This is about how she finds her confidence and self-worth again, and how her dream, her fundamental belief and hope in goodness, helps others around her to be better and can change the world, even if a small piece of it at a time, for better.
And, another thing I loved about the book, is that the true enemy isn’t the Rinaryn Elders. It’s something else, something from without, that influences minds and dreams with its poison, pits them all against each other or tries to separate them from each other as much as it can. And how their loyalty, their love, their friendship, the secret good things in the hearts of each of them, finally rise to the top, triumphant and healing, no matter how genuinely broken, ruined, distraught, disillusioned, they fall in the depths.
Also, I really liked Kaemada’s bonding with her new wolf, Nimae. It was really sweet, I liked the detail of how she wove the bond, I really liked the way they met, the way they questioned and followed and explored each other. Nimae has so much personality, and is such a wolf, and I was so happy for Kaemada overcoming her trauma to bond again, and I really liked it (and I thought it wasn’t a spoiler so I could share it here). It was so perfect!
And here’s another thing that really stood out to me and I loved so much, from Ra’ael’s perspective, not that it’s anything like the same outside the context of the whole book, but it stands for itself, at least a little, I think:
She’d lost faith in herself when she’d Fallen. Eloi and the spirits were part of her, part of everything. And because of that, no one could ever take her faith and who she was away from her.
And there, deep inside of her, was the song of the spirits, where it had always been.
Not in her head as with the fae’s illusion but at the core of her, and it rang with truth and the steady existence throughout the turning of the cycles. It bloomed through her very being, twining around her own song. After so long without the song, so long worrying about who others said she was rather than just being herself, trusting in the guidance of her heart, she had it back. Purpose, direction. A story.
And so, while around them the world burned, Ra’ael laughed.
I hope I haven’t spoiled anything yet, but with a book such as this, I don’t see how I can write even the beginnings of a review or touch on what I loved about it, without saying this much.
The Continued Review:
This is really rare (at least so far), and even rarer with a book I loved as much as this one, but I feel as if I’ve more or less said what needs to be said, without doing it any real injustice (though of course a review can never be a book, the story as wholly as it can be told!) but there were a few specific places I wanted to highlight or talk about.
I want to say that the end was awesome! Maybe, to some people, it might seem forced or incredulous how Ra’ael, and Taunous, and Kaemada, and Takiyah all arrive at the right time, more or less at the same time, and how together they challenge the elders, combat the fae influence, and resolve things at least for the moment, but I thought it was perfect! Now, to work backwards in my characteristically haphazard way.…
Kaemada can’t speak in Travellers and is subject to the constant battering of the Kamalti Collective, which is composed of psions cast out of Kamalti society. She’s so naturally driven to seek harmony and peace, yet against their onslaughts she has to hold her ground and stand in the truth that she has to be and cling to herself, and not always harmony. Hurt and damaged by so many things, not least of which is the constant assault, but which all the failures and things that have gone wrong brought on as well, she thinks she only brings harm and hurt to those she loves, so in a moment of lucidity she runs away from Taunos and those who are trying to take care of her, to go to the elves who will be able to heal her psionic troubles and mind-sickness, but will demand a great deal of her lifespan spent in service to them, tending their trees, in payment for their help. Among them, she has to work through a lot of her issues, including her trauma over how she lost Tannevar, and bond to Nimae. And she has to realize she’s not the problem, and recover a sense of value for herself. And then, once she recovers, ever the idealist, she seeks to make connections with the elves and the other Rinaryns working off their debts, to convince the elves to take into account the shortness of Rinaryn lives and to be kind to them. I loved how Kaemada finally convinces the elves, how she shows them how they’re using and taking advantage of people like the fae by learning how to communicate the way they do, how they choose to support her against the fae and keep her free from the fae who want to use or control her, or at least keep her from messing with their plans. And I love how she does her best to rescue them from the fae (though one doesn’t really know how successful her efforts will be). The elves are pacifists, so if the fae make war on them, they will all be killed when the fae come. So I liked all of that. I love Kaemada’s idealism and hopefulness, through everything.
And there’s Taunos, so used to doing everything himself, to fighting alone, to bearing everything alone and for others. He tries so hard to keep them together and to care for Kaemada, even though sometimes he doesn’t see the obvious (and it ought to be very obvious, but people can be stupid, exhausted, and too tired and hurt to work through the stupidity). I love him so much, too, how he tries to go to his people in the hope that they will help him, help Kaemada, tries to plead with them, but instead they try to stone him, and injured he realmwalks out in the nick of time – and has to face his heart that he’s denied thinking his duty demands it. His love, Amanah, who loves him still, but is hurt by his rejection and his lies. How he slowly first argues and then makes up with her and her brother, learns to accept her love, start to learn to accept others fighting for him, but he’ll always doing everything and anything for those he loves. How he and she work slowly through her pain at his rejection and lies and his hesitance to share anything, thinking it risks his people, and in the process cutting himself off from everyone. It’s such a journey, and he makes friends with her brother, Emin, too. How finally, he comes to realize that there never was a conflict between his heart and his duty, that he never had to choose, and will not choose between them now. And I really love how much Taunos loves Kaemada, his little sister, too.
And here’s one of the stars, when Taunos, still fallen, realmwalks through the Trees with Amanah and her brother (and another) to Talahn Valley for the Feast of Starfall, almost at the end:
Amanah grabbed his hand, drawing his attention back to her. “Are they going to stone us?”
He swept his thumb across her knuckles. “I will not let them stone you. I will get you out.”
Her lips twisted. “I’m not asking to be rescued. I want you to share your life with me, even the ugly parts. I’m not leaving until you do.”
Takiyah is so afraid of everything, so desperately afraid of everything, especially the Kamalti who she believes are all conniving liars. She’s so eaten by fear and shame, and also driven by the urge of the genetic memories she has as an Ifreesian Dwarf (though she does not know about her race yet). Wandering in the desert and dying of thirst and heat, she is found and rescued by Pek, a Kamalti. Pek has a lot of personality, and I liked how he bantered with Takiyah, put up with her and slowly drew her out just a little bit, even though the raw pain and bitterness of her torture swamps almost everything. She won’t do anything for any Kamalti, and that severely limits her options in the mixed-racial City of Tamarik. She’s such an inventor, and that wonder at life, at the sea, at metals, at everything and anything that can be learned, is still there, striving to blossom again. She decides to build a road to connect the City of Tamarik and the City of the Lost (where she lived for a time with Taunos, Ra’ael, and the mind-sick Kaemada after being cast out as Fallen) to facilitate trade that would help the people, and in her mind to atone for her faults. She wants it to be just her project, but eventually she accepts the help of prisoners who will work with her and have their sentences reduced. She never talks or thinks about them as prisoners, and I liked that – and it fit her. Eventually, she faces down a dragon for them, and the dragon tells her: “And find out who you are, little Ifreesian.” And that’s how she decides to look for her friends again, to try to find them and re-build with them. To stand for them and for her father and mother against the wiles and tyranny of the fae-touched Elders. I loved it! I loved her growth, her pain, her time with Pek, all of it.
And there’s Ra’ael, the priestess who’s lost her faith, trying to abide by the rules of “being Fallen,” or find what they are. She goes to Dode, who became her friend in the Kamalti city of Codr (at least I hope that’s the name of the right city), but finds that she’s becoming increasingly uncomfortable in the presence of her friend, but it’s not anything Dode is doing. She tries so hard to be as Kamalti as she can be, since she figures she can’t be Rinaryn. And she meets up again with Tjodlik, a Philosopher from the Kamalti city of Detr, who is working with Dode for reform in some areas, like considering Rinaryns to be people. I really liked Tjodlik, with his thirst for knowledge and curiosity, and his personality, and how he comes with Ra’ael to the surface and goes with her. There’s more to him than is at first apparent. I really, really enjoyed reading Ra’ael’s journey – and it’s an interesting contrast, too, for she’s now seen how her Elders can be as bad as the Kamalti, where before she held up to Dode with almost religious fervor that the Rinaryns were better. I quoted about her earlier, and that’s one of the things I loved about this: through all of it, she finally discovers that she needs to find who she is, follow who she is herself, not let other societies define it for her – or her relationship to Eloi. It’s so genuine and heart-ful, like all the characters here.
And, lastly, here’s another passage quoted, this time from Kaemada’s thoughts (I love how people’s personalities come through even in other people’s memories):
“Harmony is not everything.”
“It is important.”
“It is, dearest,” her father conceded, as he always did. He’d risen and embraced her mother. “Storytelling Zeroun wants me to stop writing.”
“He would like me to be his apprentice, and so he tells me I must only tell true stories.”
“That is quite an honor.”
“Truth is not always true. Sometimes a story can be true but still miss the truth. In making my own stories, I am looking for the truth – the real truth – even knowing some details may not be true.”
“You have to dance to your own music. You cannot follow along in another’s story.”