Dangerous Waters by Juliet E McKenna

(8.4/10) I ended understanding why the author has a place within the pantheon of British fantasy authors.

I've managed to conduct an experiment here by deliberately making this the first Juliet McKenna book I've read (for some reason I have most of her novels on that "must read sometime shelf at home). I have to say that you can get away with not having read the previous series but it made it a trifle difficult. I had a disquieting sense of arriving in a world where there was information I should already have known, that lay just out of my grasp. As such I found myself constantly putting the book down during the first two thirds of it as it mainly seemed to be a salutary investigation of the internal struggles of three key people - Zurenne, Corrain and Jiselle - to discover themselves and their place in a world that sits uncomfortably around them. Still, by the conflagatory end, where the grubby Mandarkin mage cuts through the prevarication and pontification that dominates the core characters, the book was rocketing along (almost in a Brent Weeks fashion) and I finished looking forward to reading the next installment. I'll also spend time reading the earlier novels.

The story commences in the Barony of Halferan in Caladhria with the earth mage Jilseth from Hadrumal hunting the renegade Minelas who has broken the cardinal rule of neutrality to hire his services to the desperate Lord of Halferan whose lands are constantly being raided by the Aldabreshin corsairs. The treachery of Minelas results in Captain Corrain (mandolin anyone?) ending up on the brutal corsair ships as a manacled slave. There, he and his youthful protégé, Hosh, nurse a festering grievance to return and hunt down the mage who betrayed them all.

The novel becomes a struggle of ideology, a book dealing with the constraints that bind us physically, emotionally and intellectually. The Hadrumal mages, led by Planir who advocates non-interference in worldly matters, debate endlessly whether to end the policy. The recently widowed Zurenne starts to come to terms with understanding that her idealized notion of life within a strongly patriarchal society is deeply flawed, only finding an outlet through her strong daughter, Ilysh. Jiselle chafes at the injustice she sees when the corsairs start to loot and burn with arrogant impunity, finally finding an ability to express her need for action during the razing of the castle Halferan. Corrain, who commits himself to finding a mage who will come to Caladhria to help defeat the corsairs and free all their slaves, sails off with Kusint to Solura.

It is a world of contrasts. For Planir "division is an excellent thing. Why do you suppose I spend so much of my time encouraging every mage, from highest to lowest, to pursue their individual passions... It's factions of mages banding together that would threaten wizardry most." Divide and conquer. For the Caladhrians life is about "interminable, inconclusive discussion that kept baronies and all their inhabitants... as dumbly as a donkey in a harness." For Corrain it is simple: "Yes, these wizards would pay.". The struggle between constancy and the need to change, to improve is the dominant theme of the novel and the strain on society and individuals is palpable. As a reader we are stretched as taut as a bowstring with the procrastination, our frustration building with Corrain until, at the last, the world McKenna has corralled us into explodes in a maelstrom of violence that is merely the tinder spark for what must come in the next books.

I began this uncertainly; it is evident that reading the earlier novels is a key factor in retaining the attention - particularly as a browse on the author's website reveals some characters have previously appeared; I ended understanding why the author has a place within the pantheon of British fantasy authors. This isn't (despite my comment above) Brent Weeks. It's not Feist, not Eddings. I could draw a parallel to Fiona McIntosh - both authors spend considerable wordage on telling us what characters are thinking in order to justify actions which can be detrimental to the pace any good high fantasy requires - or David Drake's excellent Lord of the Isles but I think McKenna exhibits traits from many previous great fantasy authors pulled together in threads that make her eminently accessible to fantasy readers.

Definitely worth a look.

Review by

12+

Dangerous Waters reader reviews

8.4/10 from 1 reviews

Write a reader review

There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?

Your rating out of 10

All reviews for Juliet E McKenna's The Hadrumal Crisis series

Dangerous Waters

The Hadrumal Crisis: Book 1 written by Juliet E McKenna

The Archmage rules the island of wizards, enforcing a ban on the use ofmagecraft in warfare. But there is a rumour of rogue wizardry abroad, its adepts not subject to the A [...]

Published: 2011

Our rating: 8.4 | positive reader reviews

12+

More Juliet E McKenna reviews

The Thief's Gamble

by Juliet E McKenna

Wizards have been self-exiled to the isle of Hadrumal after years of war turned the populace against mage-born. Here, they are trying to regain the magic and knowledge lost [...]

Series: A tale of Einarinn: Book 1
Published: 1999

Score: 95

Our rating: 9.5 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

The Swordsman's Oath

by Juliet E McKenna

Ryshad had no choice but to kill his long-time friend and ally Aiten. Aiten's mind had been corrupted by the mysterious Elietimm and he was a danger to himself and a de [...]

Series: A tale of Einarinn: Book 2
Published: 1999

Score: 85

Our rating: 8.5 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

The Gambler's Fortune

by Juliet E McKenna

Livak has decided it's time she turned her new-found connections with powerful mages and mighty princes into solid advantage for herself. If she is to have any sort of [...]

Series: A tale of Einarinn: Book 3
Published: 2000

Score: 86

Our rating: 8.5 | 1 positive reader reviews

12+

The Warrior's Bond

by Juliet E McKenna

Einarinn's greatest warrior, the swordsman Ryshad, has sworn to protect his lord, Messire D'Olbriot, even if it means watching his love, the beautiful thief Livak, [...]

Series: A tale of Einarinn: Book 4
Published: 2003

Score: 70

Our rating: 7.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

The Assassin's Edge

by Juliet E McKenna

After a long winter spent in the Kellarin colony, the crafty and beautiful Livak is anxious to move on. Now an opportunity is on the horizon. The reclamation of a lost sout [...]

Series: A tale of Einarinn: Book 5
Published: 2002

Score: 85

Our rating: 8.5 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

Books you may also enjoy

The Earthsea Quartet

by Ursula Le Guin

The island of Gont is a land famous for wizards. Of these, some say the greatest - and surely the greatest voyager - is the man called Sparrowhawk. As a reckless, awkward b [...]

Series: Earthsea Saga: Book 1 - 4
Published: 1993

Score: 117

Our rating: 10.0 | 15 positive reader reviews

12+

Ptolemy's Gate

by Jonathan Stroud

Three years on from the events in The Golem's Eye, the magicians' rule in London is teetering on a knife-edge, with strikes, riots and general unrest. The Prime Min [...]

Series: The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Book 3
Published: 2005

Score: 95

Our rating: 9.7 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

The Wise Man's Fear

by Patrick Rothfuss

Picking up the tale of Kvothe Kingkiller once again, we follow him into exile, into political intrigue, courtship, adventure, love and magic ... and further along the path [...]

Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Book 2
Published: 2011

Score: 117

Our rating: 9.6 | 11 positive reader reviews

12+

The Amulet of Samarkand

by Jonathan Stroud

When the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus is summoned by Nathaniel, a young magician's apprentice, he expects to have to do nothing more taxing than a little levitation [...]

Series: The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Book 1
Published: 2003

Score: 100

Our rating: 9.5 | 6 positive reader reviews

12+