The Key to Creation by Kevin J Anderson (Terra Incognita: Book 3)

The Key to Creation sees an end to Kevin J Anderson’s terrific Terra Incognita trilogy. It had a tough act to follow thanks to the superb The Map of All Things which set up an impressive array of plot threads in need of resolution. Suffice to say that Anderson resolves everything succinctly here.

Unfortunately though, Terra Incognita Part 3 is not without its problems. Unlike its predecessors this instalment takes a while to find its feet, beginning off unsteadily and taking a while to settle into the rhythm that the other novels demonstrated so early on. The religious symbolism which has flooded the series does become rather too prominent here also, coating the story in a slightly sour light.

Initially what’s most apparent though is that the characterisation feels strangely flat, with relationships lacking the conviction and power they held in the earlier novels. Queen Anjine and Mateo’s relationship for example seems somewhat baffling as, at least for the first half of the book, the couple share a frustratingly rational outlook on their situation that does nothing for the reader but disappoint. It is only much later on when circumstances allow that they begin to deal with their feelings more honestly and openly, adopting a more human approach and subsequently producing some extremely emotive and compelling reading.

Similarly, Criston Vora’s voyage to find the hidden land of Terravitae takes time to fully engage. The early chapters feel drawn out, with the fanatical Prester Hannes and his venomous beliefs as well as the blind hatred the Urabans and Tierrans share for one another, growing quickly tiresome. Only when the crew encounter Saan’s Uraban vessel does this thread become really interesting, picking up pace and helping the story as a whole to become as involving as we’ve come to expect.

This isn’t to say that all the good stuff’s at the end however. Adrea’s life as Istar and the wife of Soldan-Shah Omrah becomes progressively more dangerous as the ruler’s hatred of the Aidenists escalates while Saan’s sea voyage is put in peril as he and his crew are hunted down by the relentless and powerful Iyomelka. Ciarlo’s devotion to his faith takes him to the brink of death and back again, while the mer-Saedrans make an unexpected reappearance at an opportune moment.

As usual there’s an awful lot going on, meaning that the pages turn swiftly and allow the reader barely a moment to sit back and take stock. Despite this though, The Key to Creation only generates any real gravitas as it heads into its final stages and everything begins to come together. The last third of the novel is by far the most exhilarating as it poses some brilliant action sequences, tearfully emotional encounters and genuinely heartbreaking moments.

Some of the most memorable instances include Prester Hannes and Sikara Fyiri’s sea-faring face-off, Captain Vora’s discovery of The Lighthouse at the End of the World and Anjine’s battlefield breakdown. Anderson’s flair for adventure is as prominent as ever and his uncompromising attitude toward his characters remains relentless.

8/10 The Key to Creation sees an end to Kevin J Anderson's terrific Terra Incognita trilogy.

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