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The Awakened City

Victoria Strauss. Eos. $25.95
464p. ISBN: 0-380-97892-X
(March 14, 2006)

book coverThe Awakened City takes full advantage of the rich world previously introduced in The Burning Land (2004) and provides a compelling ending to an epic tale of clashing religious ideologies. Râvar, a survivor of the destroyed settlement of Refuge and a powerful Shaper, assumes the role of the Next Messenger. Using illusion and charisma, preaching that the sleeping god Ârata has arisen, he draws followers to the caverns he calls the Awakened City and plans his revenge against The Brethren of the Way of Râvar. Gyalo Amdo Samchen, who had so loyally served the Brethern but has now renounced them, can neither accept he is the true Next Messenger nor completely deny it. His turmoil distracts from the contentment of his marriage to the Dreamer Axane and father-substitute to her infant daughter, Chokyi, Râvar's child by rape. The Brethern are divided on the meaning of what is occurring, desiring the coming of the new age but knowing it means their end. When Râvar kidnaps Axane and Chokyi, Gyalo -- struggling with the significance of his own destiny -- must find a way to rescue them as Râvar marches his followers on the holy city of Baushpar. Strauss examines issues of faith and fanaticism by dividing the point of view between the bitter madman Râvar as he concocts a new mythology; the reluctant but faithful Gyalo; and a guardian of the traditional religion, the Daughter Sundit. Axane's role as the quintessential nonbeliever is also crucial. Her maternal strength adds dimension to a character who was, in the first book, unexceptionable. The fictional religion, the Way of Ârata, is convincing as a living -- and shifting -- faith. By the end, the many questions raised in The Burning Land have been answered, some in a surprising manner. Fine thought-provoking and, at times, moving fantasy. -- Paula Guran (Originally published in Fantasy #2, Spring 2006)