Jan 7, 2018

Elegy Beach

by Steven R. Boyett

Written twenty-five years after Ariel, this second book of The Change takes place in the following generation. Fred (son of Pete from the first book) is skilled at casting spells and wants to learn more. Cocky and self-sure adolescents, Fred and his best friend Yan push the boundaries of known ability. Yan gets heady with the potential power he can wield, the two friends argue about their responsibilities and Yan is forced to flee the community. Later when creatures come hunting a unicorn horn- key to the most powerful magic that could undo the laws of the Universe- Fred knows what Yan is planning to do- and that he must put a stop to his grandiose plan. So with a few companions he goes off on a mission to confront his best friend. This story arc was so much like the first book. Quest through a decayed landscape full of ruins of civilization, to find and stop the bad guy. Some of the original characters have a large role in it as well. Enough of it was unique- and I especially liked the explanations about the laws of magic, and how Yan and Fred were able to discover new ways to manipulate it, comparing along the way to how computer systems work. It's interesting to me how many stories inside stories were told here. Characters relate stories to each other- for pages- their histories, what happened to others. (Fred does quite a bit of eavesdropping, ha). In one part telling stories of the past is even part of a large ritual. It was nice to get some details from the first book filled in.

One interesting aspect is the very subtle suggestion that Fred and Yan were lovers. It's something I might not have noticed if James hadn't pointed it out. It's just not a big part of the story. I wonder if the author was trying to make a point that in the future after the Change, such relationships were seen as normal, so nobody would even think to mention it? At one point the main character is exploring an old building and remarks how odd he finds it that people in the past used to segregate men and women for changing rooms and toilet areas. He seemed to think it was amusingly quaint. Or was the character keeping it secret- certainly his father didn't know exactly how close he and Yan had been. It's never really made clear.

On the whole I didn't find this one quite as funny as Ariel. A lot of it is built on action- but the narrative seemed to slow down the closer it got the end with the big showdown. At some point I was just anxious for it to get there and making myself read through all the obstacles the characters had to overcome. And unfortunately I didn't feel as connected to the characters themselves. The unicorn in particular wasn't as strong an individual as I remember. I wish there'd been more about Avy. And the centaurs in here? They sound freakishly menacing but I was unable to picture them clearly. Looked about just in case someone else might have made an illustration based on the author's description, but nope.

Sounds like there's another installment coming- I found comments online suggesting the author has a third Book of the Change in store- Avalon Burning. I'd read it.

Rating: 3/5         424 pages, 2009

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