Review: Besieged, Rowena Cory Daniells
Sorne, the estranged son of a King on the verge of madness, is being raised as a weapon to wield against the mystical Wyrds. Half a continent away, his father is planning to lay siege to the Celestial City, the home of the T En, whose wyrd blood the mundane population have come to despise.
Within the City, Imoshen, the only mystic to be raised by men, is desperately trying to hold her people together. A generations long feud between the men of the Brotherhoods and the women of the sacred Sisterhoods is about to come to a head. With war without and war within, can an entire race survive the hatred of a nation?
Series: The Outcast Chronicles #1 of 3
Genre: High fantasy
Published: Solaris, June 2012
My copy: For review from the Author, thanks!
It’s been a while since I read any high fantasy, since a lot of it these days tends to be quite dark and depressing. While still containing some violence and oppression, Besieged isn’t nearly as dark as other books in the genre and I found that made it all the more enjoyable a read. That, and the fact that the author lives in the same city as me. Hooray for local awesome talent!
How to describe this world? Chalcedonia and the nearby kingdoms are peopled by two races, who have lived in peace for the last several hundred years. There are the True-men, who are also called Mieren by the T’En. The other race is the T’En, also called Wyrds by the True-men. Tall and silver-haired, the T’En have violet eyes and six fingers on each hand. They also have strange abilities – while the men are physically stronger and are often gifted warriors, the women are very powerful and are able to segue to the spirit world. Some can see the future, while others are able to heal or read others emotions. All of the women can kill by separating a soul from its body, and for that they are feared.
T’En society is split into sisterhoods and brotherhoods, each with their ambitious leaders and hierarchy below. Men and women live separately, only coming together at festival times to select trysting partners. At other times, each group may take lovers from within their own sisterhood or brotherhood, or among the Malaunje – half-bloods who have the T’En characteristics but none of their power. Usually in servitude with the brotherhoods or sisterhoods, the Malaunje are despised and persecuted by the True-men. Malaunje can be born to True-men or T’En parents and no-one is quite sure why. True T’En babies are prized and carefully cared for, but all T’En babies, true blooded or not, are given up to the sisterhoods in their first year and cared for and trained until they are eighteen. The boys are then returned to their brotherhoods, while the true-blooded girls remain with the sisterhoods for further training and development of their gifts.
There are some, however, who are not happy with the control the sisterhoods and brotherhoods hold over society. All-father Rohaayel, the leader of a brotherhood, smuggles away a child to a secluded island, intent on bringing her up ignorant of the way T’En society works. Imoshen’s powerful true-blooded child would be able to challenge the leaders and bring about change.
Meanwhile, the Queen of Chalcedonia has just given birth to a half-blood Malaunje and the King is furious. Rather than destroy the child, high priest Oskane sneaks Sorne away to raise him and study the half-blood ways, to try to find a weapon that can be used against the T’En and their magic.
Those are just two of the storylines threaded together in this story – spanning a period of about thirty years, the story often jumps forward by several years between chapters. Each story arc follows the events from within the brotherhoods, the sisterhoods and from within Chalcedonia, as well as from Imoshen and Sorne’s points of view. The end result is a rich presentation of life from almost every angle – the mothers giving up their children, the wars ravaging the land, the manoeuvres for power within the T’En society and the loves, prejudices, affairs and betrayals of everyday life.
This is the first book by Rowena Cory Daniells that I’ve read, but I understand that her Last T’en series is set in the same world. I managed to catch up with the magic systems and societies without being completely in the dark, but I wonder whether the information overload at the start of the book might have been a little less overwhelming if I had read the previous series first! A glossary at the end may have helped understanding all the new terms as well.
I found the T’en societies fascinating – the way the Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods are kept separate and in fear and contempt of one another. I found it almost as fascinating that Imoshen, who was kept away all her life from the strict societal laws and expectations of the Celestial City, is able to see all of it and realise that it is wrong – that her people suffer and that there should be a better way to live. Despite all the horrors that are going on around this world, this is still a story of hope – of how just a few people can effect great change in society.
Once I got through the rather lengthy set-up early on in the book, I found all of the different story arcs to be very engaging and by the second half I found it very difficult to put down. Of course, this is only the first part in a massive trilogy so I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the second book, Exile, very soon!
Warnings: Violence including towards children, sexual situations (some abusive)
The Outcast Chronicles
What did others think of Besieged?
- “Besieged is a book that I think will appeal to all those fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.” – Ticket to Anywhere
- “Fantasy adorers will consume this book. Besieged was intriguing in all aspects; it has fantastic characters and a fascinating plot.” – Book Probe Reviews
- “If you enjoy stories laced with political scheming, you’ll love Besieged… In Besieged Daniells has created a rich and complex world and used it as the stage for an engrossing story.” – A Fantastical Librarian