February 1 2011

Lord of the Silent Kingdom

Lord of the Silent Kingdom is the second book in Glen Cook’s Instrumentalities of the Night series. Glen has taken the idea of “What if our world had magic” and specifically what if that magic created entities (god and others) based on the belief that people had in them. Then, use the setting of approximately 12th century Europe.
We see that there are similarities. The Brothen Empire (think Rome) has collapsed at some point in the past. Current Europe is fragmented among competing kingdoms, principalities, partial empires and churches. So, the grand backdrop is similar to our Europe of the 12th century. However, the details are all changed. There is a Patriarch in Brothe, but it isn’t Christianity but Chaldeanism. It has some similarities, but the central figures are all different.
The Instrumentalities are the spirits or gods that form from peoples imaginings (and their own) and feed upon the magic of the world. Much of the magic comes from literal wells of power. Many of these are located in the Holy land–hence its holiness.
All of the old gods existed at some point. An ice age is beginning to reoccur, driving many of the dark instrumentalities from the north to the south.
All of that is background. The three main story-lines concern Piper Hecht, Hespeth (princess of the Grail Empire) and Brother Candle, a Perfect Master of the Mayalean’s. Piper is now the Captain-General of the forces of the Patriachy, under the Patriarch (think Pope) Sublime V. In the first book, we knew Piper as Else Tage, a Sha-Lug captain of the Pramin’s who currently control the holy lands. As Captain General of the Patriarchy, Piper’s job is to command the army of the Patriarchy. As a Sha-Lug, his job is to keep those troops out of another Crusade against the Holy Lands. Further, Piper had ‘discovered’ that a cannon loaded with iron and silver could actually ‘destroy’ a powerful Instrumentality. Thus, his life is complicated in that the Instrumentalities (and sorcerers) want him dead.
Hespeth’s story line is somewhat secondary in the book. Her sister becomes the Empress of the Grail Empire and Hespeth is now first in line for the succession. Hespeth doesn’t really want to be in this position and would rather be doing some adventuring of her own. She somewhat surreptitiously leads an expedition against a powerful Instrumentality that is blocking a key mountain pass.
Brother Candle provides us with the ground eye view of the people in the Connec. This region has (according to Sublime) strayed from the Church and is harboring heretics (such as Brother Candle). One of the major arcs is that Piper must invade this region and squash the heretics. Pipers not really into the fanaticism aspect, but there are plenty of inquisition types who hunger for heretic squashing (and looting).
Then, there are various sorcerers. Some of them want to kill Piper and some of them want to protect him.
So, there is an awful lot going on. These books are much more detailed than any of Cook’s previous books. But, they are well worth it.
I enjoyed this volume even more than the first volume. In the first volume, a lot of time (at least my time) was spent in figuring out everything that was going on. Here, I had that background and the wider story really starts to develop.