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Antiphon by Ken Scholes

Posted by travizzt on October 6, 2010

Blood magick returns to the Named Lands, along with its dark rituals. Does the Light stay lit in Antiphon, or does it sputter out and leave us in darkness?

Antiphon by Ken Scholes- This is the third book in The Psalms of Isaak series. The first book is Lamentation, the second book is Canticle, the fourth book, Requiem, and the fifth book, Hymn, are yet to be released with no set release date at the time of this review. Ken Scholes has written only one other novel called Last Flight of the Goddess. He has written a number of short stories and even has a book of his collected short fiction called Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Journeys. Antiphon is published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC under Tor and was first released in hardcover in September 2010.

The Named Lands are in chaos. The Machtvolk are bringing back powerful blood magick, which is crippling the nations of the Named Lands. However, as the nations recover from the sudden reappearance of House Y’Zir, a lull in action occurs. During this time, the Ninefold Forest is welcoming the marriage of their king, Rudolfo, to Jin Li Tam and their birth of their son Jakob. However, the word of House Y’Zir is being preached in the Ninefold Forest, stating that young Jakob is the Child of Promise and Jin Li Tam is the Great Mother, ushering in a new time. They will do anything to keep them safe. Anything. Outside the Named Lands, in the Wastes, young Nebios is searching for the Hidden Library and trying to understand the meaning behind the song. Little does he know that he is being chased by blood magicked women, bent on stopping him from finding his destiny.

1) Nebios. Neb was the only character that didn’t really seem to grow naturally. Instead, he has things happen to him that help him along in his development as a character. Sure, the other characters had the same thing happen to them, but with Neb those times seemed to be contrived and poorly planned. He doesn’t really seem to learn anything from his experiences and he’s unhealthy obsession with the song does become a little bothersome at times. Also what happens to him at the end really bothered me. Honestly, it was really cool, but while I was thinking that, I couldn’t help but also think, “That’s it? Really?” It almost comes out of no where, and it just felt forced and unnatural. It’s not that he isn’t an interesting character, he is. It’s just that what happens to him in the story just seems thrown together. With Neb being this story’s focus, I’d thought that his growth as a character could have been developed better.

1) Main Characters. The main characters, for the most part, were wonderful. Each character had a unique story with them and really did seem to grow throughout it. Even the side characters and bit players were unique and played their roles well. Rudolfo’s story has him coping with having his wife and new-born son leaving for safety and learning that his Ninefold Forest isn’t as safe as he once thought. His downward spiral into depression was both sad and interesting. On the flip side of that, Jin Li Tam didn’t really seem to grow very much. However, seeing as she was the last book’s main focus, it was nice to see her grow into motherhood and understanding what it means to be a queen. Petronus is dealing with his new-found life and the consequences of it. You see him starting to question what he did believe in, along with trying to understand what is happening to him. Speaking of questioning their beliefs, the new main character, Charles, was fantastic. As the creator of the mechoservitors and Isaak, he starts to see them as his children and himself as a father. There were scenes that were very touching and heartfelt between Isaak and him. After leaving the Marshfolk and her rulership, Winters is questioning why her people are suddenly turning to the ways of the Machtvolk and their dark rituals. We see her trying to understand why while trying to live a new life in the Ninefold Forests. Finally we come to Vlad Li Tam. After his experience in the previous book, he becomes obsessed with searching for the song he heard underwater. We can see his mind slowly going, but we can also see the old Vlad along with that. All in all, each character’s trails and tribulations really do stand out while reading.
2) Themes. The themes in the story were really interesting and we have quite a few of them. The biggest theme I see is belief vs understanding. This is found almost every where in the story. The best example is the House Y’Zir beliefs vs the Androfrancine Orders views. It was interesting to see how each side goes about their own personal beliefs. House Y’Zir’s dark belief system is disturbing, while the Androfrancine views stress understanding over mysticism. Then the second biggest theme is once again, family. We see how Rudolfo deals with Jin Li Tam and Jakob leaving, Charles coming to understand fatherhood and what it means, Neb’s relationship with his father, and Winters dealing with her older sister Ria playing a big part of the story. There are other themes present as well; mysticism vs machinery, good vs evil, and finding one’s path. It’s also interesting to see how it seems that magic, religion, technology, and mysticism works together. The themes were just plain interesting.
3) Pacing. The pacing for Antiphon is much improved over the previous books slow pacing. There still were slower times, but I was very hard pressed to put this book down for too long. Things happened faster and it wasn’t bogged down in useless information. It also helps that I just came from reading Canticle, so I didn’t need a lot of background to understand what was going on.

Side Notes:
1) Tears. Why is it that everyone, at the drop of a hat, tears up and cries? Honestly, it seemed that everyone’s eyes started to water every other page. That did get annoying.
2) House Y’Zir. Is it just me, or does anyone else absolutely hate House Y’Zir? I know it’s the point we should not trust them, but I surprised myself by hating them as much as I do.
3) Cover Art. The cover art is disgusting looking. The browns are very unappealing and make the cover look gross. Although, Neb does have an awesome pose and the art does reflect something that actually happens.

Overall: 5/5
Final Thoughts:
Antiphon is a great book that improves on everything the previous books had against them. While Neb didn’t really seem to develop every well in my eyes, he was still a great character in a book full of great characters. Each character had a unique story and seemed to really develop as the book went on. Even the side characters and bit players were wonderful. It seemed like everyone had a purpose in Antiphon. Also the themes were wonderful and more distinctive. The biggest problem with the previous books was the slow pacing they have. However, Antiphon never felt slow, and when it did, it picked the pace back up quickly. There were times when I didn’t want to put the book down for too long. However, I would suggest that you have the events and story of Lamentation and Canticle fresh in your mind before diving into Antiphon. As for a recommendation, yes! This is definitely a book you will enjoy and is worth every penny!

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