An incredibly cunningly plotted fantasy., January 9, 1998
Reviewer: A reader
Incredible! A mixture of magic, WWII, and the Holocaust with cunningly twisted plots. It does not take a fool to know that an immense amount of research was put in. No other Holocaust fictional story deals with the fact that Germans sought out magical rites as a weapon to win the war. Brilliant!
Sequel to Rainbow Abyss; Second in Sun-Cross. Unfortunately, on the magicless world Jaldus and Rhion crossed over to, the sun-cross is backwards: a swasticka. We are left with the assistant, Rhion, who doesn't know how to recreate the abyss to cross back to his magical world after his master died. And he is being held by the Nazi's occult bureau; trying to use magic to gain an advantage in the war. It's an okay book that I had to read to see what happened to the main character.
When I read the description, I wondered whether this fantasy featuring a wizard in early Nazi Germany would be clichéd with cardboard characters. However, Hambly skillfully creates great interactions between the wizard Rhion, his Nazi captors and the people he rescues. The only quibble I have is that the plot set in Rhion's homeworld seemed tacked on and not resolved very well.
Fledgeling magician Rhion of Sligo plunged through the Well to answer the pleas of the magicians whispering to him from the other side of its frigid darkness. Desperately, they'd described to him a world gone nearly barren of magic, where the last kingdom in which wizards were protected was besieged on all sides by those who hated and feared the very idea of magic. Rhion had grown up suffering this kind of hatred, and could not bring himself to turn his back on their need.
But something seemed very wrong from the moment he recovered consciousness in this strange new world, empty of magic but full of machines and electricity. Why did these wizards who had begged for his aid all seem to be either soldiers or in service to a military regime (which far from being beseiged, seemed to be pursuing a remarkably effective offensive war)? Why were they telling him lies whenever he tried to learn more about how the Well had snapped shut behind his passage, trapping him in their terrifying world? And why was the sacred symbol of their "Third Reich" a silver sun-cross spinning backwards toward darkness and chaos?
Rhion's deepening sense of horror is palpable as he pieces together the snippets of news that reach him in his de facto imprisonment. It seems that his captors are involved in the capture, transport, and (Rhion slowly realized with horror) the brutal slaughter of thousands -- millions! -- of innocent civillians. Some of these prisoners are even Gypsies and Jewish mystics possessing strong magical potential, drawing the sinister interest of the obsessed would-be wizards of the Reich's Occult Bureau. Rhion's only hope to put a stop to the horror (and if he's really lucky, perhaps to see his wife and children again) is to rescue an imprisoned Kabbalah mystic and make contact with the Resistance before the Occult Bureau succeeds in unleashing the full power of the Well.
Fans of the crossover genre between magic and technology might like this selection. In all honesty, I purchased it without reading the back becuase I had assumed that the world Rhion traveled to at the end of the preceding book would be medieval, where perhaps the force that powered the arcane had somehow been rendered inaccessible. It did not prove to be so, thus I trade it.