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REVIEW: Mists of Everness by John C. Wright



BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A war for world domination is waged when the door between Earth and the land of magic is opened.

PROS: Excellent action sequences; interesting mix of sub-genres; good characterizations.
CONS: Combining of several sub-genres required context-switching for which I was not ready.
BOTTOM LINE: True fans of high fantasy will definitely enjoy this book.

Mists of Everness is the second part of the THE WAR OF THE DREAMING series, the first part being The Last Guardian of Everness. Well, maybe series isn’t exactly the right word as this was written as a single story and was published as two books. Incidentally, this was the first book-length story written (but second book-length story published) by Wright, whose second book-length story THE GOLDEN AGE was published as three separate books (The Golden Age, The Phoenix Exultant and The Golden Transcendence).

Mists of Everness immediately picks up where The Last Guardian of Everness left off and maintains the same level of quality. The castle of Everness, nestled away in Maine, is the gateway between our own world and the magical land of Dreaming and it has been taken over by the nefarious Azrael de Gray, warlock extraordinaire. He’s had help. On his side are armies of Selkies (nasty human-skin-wearing seals you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley), Kelpies (very mean Knights) as well as a host of human helpers, most of those in the U.S. government. While Azrael’s goal of world domination might seem clear enough, he’s a bit undecided. His current path will lead to the resurrection of the underwater city of Acheron and the evil rule of Morningstar. Greed being what it is, however, he wants it all for himself. He certainly doesn’t want leader of the Light side, King Oberon, to rule. While Azrael is making up his mind, he’s got a few issues to deal with, mostly in the name of the Waylock family.

The newest and youngest guardian of Everness, Galen Waylock, is back from the dead with a vengeance. Galen’s got help as well; not only from his father, Peter, but also his grandfather Lemuel. With them are the husband and wife team of Raven (a Russian immigrant) and Wendy (a faerie), at first separated from their departure of the previous installment, but then reunited and still bickering over Raven’s decision to kill Galen in exchange for Wendy’s life. Oh, and there’s a new character this time out – Pendrake, a seriously-clad-in-black loner with absolutely no mercy towards anything evil and a signature wide-brimmed hat.

If this premise sounds a bit complex, well, it is. For me, that was double edge-sword. On the one hand, it allowed the book to offer several appealing elements. This book could easily be classified as an eclectic mix of fantasy, military warfare, Mythology, Arthurian legend, the apocalypse, animal fables (the heroic Meadow Mouse was one of my favorite characters), Lovecraftian horror and Saturday afternoon monster-movie matinee. Certainly, this book has something for everyone. Still, for me, it sometimes seemed like it was too much. While overall it was a welcome combination of sub-genres, it tasted a bit thick at times and required a certain amount of context switching for which I was not ready. The result was that a few of the sequences felt drawn out. Fortunately, though, a majority of the sequences were fast-moving and immersive.

The characterizations were, as in all of Wright’s books, well-done. I might have added consistent but I felt that Azrael was a bit wishy-washy. At least, I couldn’t get a bead on him as a clear villain because his actions made it unclear to me who he wanted to rule the world (Morningstar or himself) and he later was helping the good guys. Such is life, I suppose. I just wanted someone to boo and hiss at other than the evil government agents. Otherwise, I very much enjoyed the characters. I particularly liked Peter’s turnaround from disbeliever to merciless, Thor-Hammer-wielding soldier. The early scene, where Peter escapes from imprisonment while indiscriminately using the hammer to glorious and gory effect, was exceptional. And did I mention the heroic Meadow Mouse? (A minor character, but a memorable one.) I would add that the relationship between the three-generations of Lemuel, Peter and Galen was a nice subtext that made them all seem more real.

The writing style is up to the author’s usual high standards. The action sequences were quite vivid and at times gory. Like the first book, I noticed that some of the passages rhymed – too often to be mere coincidence. The fact that these verses were not written in the fantasy tradition of italicized, center-justified text made them harder to spot but more effective at creating mood and conveying plot. Truth be told, when reading Lord of the Rings way back when, I used to skim those passages because they seemed like Tolkien was showing off. By including it as part of the normal flow of prose, Wright makes better use of his efforts and builds ambiance while he’s at it. Also as in the first part, humor is used to good effect, keeping the reader immersed but eliciting a great many smiles. Humor was delivered in both dialogue and events. For example, we learn the truth behind the Sword and the Stone was a well-timed toe twitch by Merlin on a secret switch when Arthur laid his hands on Excalibur. Heh-heh.

Longtime readers know my love/hate relationship with fantasy – I want to read it, but seldom am I impressed by it. So when I say that Mists of Everness is a good book, that’s saying something. True fans of high fantasy will definitely enjoy this book.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

2 Comments on REVIEW: Mists of Everness by John C. Wright

  1. Q: At least, I couldn’t get a bead on him as a clear villain because his actions made it unclear to me who he wanted to rule the world (Morningstar or himself) and he later was helping the good guys.

    A: Neither. Azrael says who he is supporting in Chapter Two, when he is talking with Peter Waylock.

    Azrael explicitly says that he was never loyal to Morningstar, and that he has no intention of ruling anything himself: his plan was to use Morningstar’s forces to conquer Everness, get the Silver Key, and betray Morningstar, making both Morningstar and Oberon slaves of mankind, so heaven and hell will serve Earth. He wants the fairies and fallen angels to bow to the heir of the Pendragon, his king to whom he is loyal, and king as well over all the terrain claimed by the Roman, British, and Spanish Empires.

    Azrael’s loyalty takes the form of committing crimes to place on the throne of Earth a just and good king. Azrael believes that the ends justify the means.

    Before the end of the book, Azrael’s lost true name is recovered, and the person he supports for the throne of Empire cannot come as a surprise to anyone. The wickedness and folly, not to mention the irony, of Azrael’s belief that bad crimes can raise a good king to a throne is made painfully clear when Azrael discovers the Pendragon’s true identity.

    Titania reveals the lineage and identity the heir of the Pendragon in the scene where she and Oberon exchange barbs and wagers.

    And the modern Pendragon, being an honest American, scoffs at the idea of thrones.

  2. Thanks for the clarification. My bad. I wish every book came with a pocket-size version of the author so that they can reiterate for me what is already plain as day. :-S

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