News Ticker

BOOK REVIEW: Wrath-Bearing Tree by James Enge

REVIEW SUMMARY: The second volume of Wrath-Bearing Tree continues to expand the scope of Morlock’s life and world.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following the events of the Dragon-Dwarf War, the religious nation of Kaen is the battleground in the continued conflict between the Ambrosii and the Gods of Fate and Chaos.

PROS: Strong fusion of sword & sorcery and epic fantasy.
CONS: Some parts do not mesh well together, leading to a less smooth reading experience
BOTTOM LINE: New characters and new conflicts deepen and to flesh out the origin story of Morlock.

Wrath-Bearing Tree is second in James Enge’s series A Tournament of Shadows, following A Guile of Dragons. The series serves as an origin story for his character Morlock Ambrosius (previously seen in A Blood of Ambrose, This Crooked Way and The Wolf Age)

Following the Dragon-Dwarf War (in A Guile of Dragons), the Graith of Guardians of the Wardlands, including Morlock, face a new threat. The nation of Kaen, to the east, has always been outside their remit, and always suspicious of outsiders besides. Their unusual ways of having individual Gods for every city is in stark contrast the protected lands to the west. However, when those city Gods start falling one by one, at least an investigation is required. Morlock, fresh from his own adventures in Kaen, is the obvious choice. Less obvious to join him is vocate Aloe Oaji, around whom the confident and laconic Morlock seems uncertain and awkward.

The sword and sorcery versus epic fantasy tension found in A Guile of Dragons continues here, yet shows some new twists. But the base of the novel is still sword and sorcery, and a travelogue at that. The adventures of Morlock and Aloe as they range across Kaen is by turns funny, poignant and thoughtful. The episodic nature of their travels is reminiscent of This Crooked Way, as the pair deal with a variety of strange cities and locales across the landscape with even stranger customs and Gods. It reads much like Leiber mixed with Vance, with more than a dash of Tolkien, and a charm and style all Enge’s own.

Wrath-Bearing Tree also introduces Morlock’s one body twin-sisters and his father. Add in the aforementioned gods (large and small), demons, odd inventions, and more…and it seems like a bit too many elements that are not always successfully integrated together. But even a slightly overstuffed Enge novel is erudite, funny, and enormously entertaining. And unlike too many middle volumes in series, this novel does far more than simply mark time. In that respect, the novel reinforces that sword and sorcery chassis. Wrath-Bearing Tree is an excellent middle volume in an exciting series from and accomplished author.

About Paul Weimer (366 Articles)
Not really a Prince of Amber, but rather an ex-pat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota, Paul Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for over 25 years. Almost as long as he has been reading and watching movies, he has enjoyed telling people what he has thought of them. In addition to SF Signal, he can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, Skiffy and Fanty, SFF Audio, Twitter, and many other places on the Internet!

2 Comments on BOOK REVIEW: Wrath-Bearing Tree by James Enge

  1. I completely agree with the travelogue impression- Enge’s background in the classics really peaked through there. It almost read like a Greek or Roman guide to the outside world. Except, you know, for the parts where it was because of City Gods being appeased and the like.

  2. I have to agree parts did not mesh well together. This book was a tougher read then the first installment. I did enjoy the new twists as you said, but there were parts that I was taking out of reading because of how uneven it was.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: