Series: The Chronicles of Pellinor #2
Author: Alison Croggon
Pages: 512 (paperback)
Published: May 2nd 2005
Published by: Walker Books
Maerad is a girl with a tragic and bitter past, but her powers grow stronger by the day. Now she and her mentor Cadvan, pursued by both the Light and the Dark, are seeking the Riddle of the Treesong. This mysterious Riddle holds the key to restoring peace to her ravaged kingdom and defeating the enemies she is fated to battle. But what is the true nature of those enemies, and of the Riddle? And is Maerad herself the greatest riddle of all?
Maerad is a former slave, freed from her life of thraldom by the magic-wielding Bard Cadvan. He is now her mentor, and together they are trying to solve to riddle of the Treesong, hard when no one even really knows what it is or where to find it. In this, the second part of the Chronicles of Pellinor, we see them traverse vast plains, huge mountain ranges and cross the frigid north all in the search for information, following hints and half-clues.
This book pretty much immediately picks up where The Gift leaves off. Maerad and Cadvan are making their way to Thorold, seeking to escape the wrath of Enkir, and most of the first chapter is the typical 'this is what happened in the last book' reminders. It's a bit cumbersome, but the story soon reasserts itself, and it was nice seeing Maerad especially settle into being a School: for one thing, it wasn't just her and Cadvan riding around in the wilderness. While this is where most of the action takes places, I enjoy seeing the different cultures which Croggon has created in this world, and as far as I can work out the Throldians seem to be something akin to Italian. Loud, boisterous, but passionate and utterly dedicated to those they care about.
And is is here that Maerad finally begins to find herself as a person. She grows into who she is, shielded here somewhat from the dangers that have pursued her thus far. She grows in different ways through the rest of the story, but it was nice to see her just being a young girl here. I've got to say I don't really like the way in which this growth is achieved by the author later in the book. A different device was used than often, and while the events following it make sense, I wish that the trigger could have been different because for me it didn't really seem to sit with Maerad's character as I knew her. Though maybe that was the point. Her past plays a huge part in the way things turn out, and her thought process does make logical sense, I just didn't really like it. It is in this book that she finds her strength, and learns to rely on herself and her own abilities.
We get to see more of Barding in this book, but still not huge amounts. The 'magic' side of things isn't really that prevalent in any of the books, but I think this one especially. Yeah, it's important and plays its part, but there are some books where the characters use it left, right and centre and I sometimes would have liked to see a little bit more. You're told Maerad is learning High Magery, but are given only one example and I would have liked to hear more about the things which are accomplishable with The Gift.
Though the story is a little slow to start with, there are still bits and pieces of things going on, whether it's The Nameless One making his presence felt, Maered accidentally causing chaos with her abilities or things nudging them forward in the quest. It does get going properly eventually, but for me it just wasn't as good as the first book.