Eye of the Labyrinth

by Jennifer Fallon

Published by HarperCollins Australia

628 pages, 2003

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Building Worlds

Reviewed by Sue Bursztynski


On the world of Ranadon, which orbits two suns, there is no real darkness, only a red sun at night. Well, not most of the time, anyway. Some years before, there had been an Age of Shadows, when the yellow sun had disappeared, causing natural disasters and crop failures and giving an opportunity to an ambitious priestess, Belagren, to gain power via a fake religion.

In the first novel in Jennifer Fallon's Second Sons trilogy, The Lion of Senet, it was established that Belagren had gained power through predicting the return of the light and persuading the ruler known as the Lion to sacrifice his baby son to her nonexistent Goddess. She had gained the information from Neris, a brilliant mathematician, who fled, driven insane by remorse, and now, to keep her power, needs to find out when the next Age of Shadows will begin. Belagren had discovered another mathematical genius in the person of Dirk Provin, younger son of the Duke of Elcast, but he was too bright to be manipulated and escaped her and Antonov, the Lion (ruler) of Senet, along with Neris' daughter and her friends.

Eye of the Labyrinth opens two years later. Dirk has been hiding out with Antonov's enemies. The labyrinth of the title is located in the ruins of an ancient settlement. Neris had seeded it with deadly traps to protect vital information about the planet's orbit from Belagren and her followers, who would use it to predict the next Age of Shadows and stay in power. Dirk has decided it's time to bring the entire empire of Antonov and High Priestess Belagren down about their ears. To do so, he needs the information from the labyrinth -- and there is only one way to get near the place. Will he work out the clues before the labyrinth's traps kill him? And, if he does get through, will he survive what his friends might do to him?

Jennifer Fallon, author of the Demon Child trilogy, has created yet another world with its own politics and culture. This is science fiction posing as fantasy. The cover blurb compares Fallon to George R.R. Martin and Guy Gavriel Kay and this is not a bad comparison.

Like Martin, Fallon has built carefully a universe that reads like fantasy, but pays some tribute to the laws of physics. Like both writers, she uses as little magic as she can get away with. Actually, in this trilogy so far, there has been no magic whatsoever, no remote suggestion that the Goddess exists, no spells or even the gods who wandered cheerfully through the Demon Child novels. There is only a race to find out when the planet's orbit is going to take it away from the second sun, and an attempt to take advantage of the knowledge.

When reading the first novel, I thought that perhaps the world was some lost Terran colony, gone mediaeval, and there is a hint in this one that, at the very least, there was a more advanced earlier culture. Presumably, all will be revealed in the concluding volume. The characters are still likable, the language relaxed and modern and the author displays a sense of humor often missing from fantasy sagas. This is certainly the first fantasy or SF novel I have read in which a vital role is played by a pancake recipe!

The first two volumes of the Second Sons trilogy have come out in quick succession; hopefully the third will be with us soon. | May 2003


Sue Bursztynski is a children's and fantasy writer and librarian based in Australia.