Second Sight by Greg Hamerton
Review by Floresiensis
Last year I reviewed The Riddler’s Gift (the first book in Greg Hamerton’s Lifesong Cycle) and found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. When I began reading Second Sight, the next instalment in the series, it was with the thought “more of the same please” firmly in mind. I am pleased to say that this was precisely what the book delivered.
The Riddler’s Gift was notable for possessing both an involving narrative and a keen understanding of what it is high fantasy fans love. These strengths, working well alongside a complex and innovative system of magic, helped make the book stand out in an overcrowded and all-too-often unoriginal high fantasy market.
In Second Sight, the strengths found in The Riddler’s Gift are once again in evidence. The story picks up smoothly from where the first book left off and we find young wizard Tabitha Serannon facing a dilemma. Ultimately she is forced to abandon those in need of her healing powers in order to her journey into the Oldenworld, a land of chaos and terror, where she must liberate the essence of life.
There are two words in the previous paragraph that hold great importance within the Lifesong Cycle - order and chaos. These two words have replaced the standard good and evil found within many a fantasy volume; order helping to create a healthy, happy existence while chaos is found at the root of violence, mutation, hunger and misery. But it is not quite that simple… and this is something that I liked about this book – there are grey areas, just as there are in real life. There is no such thing as a wholly good or wholly evil person and Hamerton gives his Goodies enough failings to make them realistic while giving the Baddies the necessary humanity that avoided them becoming two-dimensional parodies.
Hamerton lists Charles de Lint, Robin Hobb and Stephen Donaldson as influences and it is the latter of whom I was most reminded (although there is far more humour to found here). Much of the tale plays out in the Oldenworld, a land under siege from chaos, and it was the Sunbane-blighted Land featured in Donaldson’s Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant that often came to mind, particularly when reading of the effect that the land’s changes were having upon its inhabitants. Another pleasing aspect of Hamerton’s work is the tremendous amount of imagination (and attention to detail) that he injects into it. The constant attempts at originality and innovation are admirable and, for the most part, work. This is an author that successfully manages to keep their soaring imagination under control and there was only a couple of instances where I found too many fantastic things happening too frequently. The take on magic is as refreshing and thought-provoking as it was in the first book and the author’s time spent as a paragliding instructor has helped to lend realism to the air-born elements of this story: the flight of the gryphons and dragons being particularly believable.
Second Sight is an epic tale with philosophical themes woven through a tale of justice, forgiveness, beauty and temptation. I certainly recommend it but would suggest that as little a gap as possible is allowed between the finishing of the first book and the beginning of the second - this is so that events are still fresh in the mind and momentum is maintained. So, get your hands on a copy and give it a go (but read The Riddler’s Gift first of course). If you are a fan of Stephen R Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books then you will find much within that pleases you, especially if you wished they were slightly more light-hearted!
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