This is the second book in a trilogy with all that usually entails -- its primary use is a bridge, I suspect. There is a great deal of traveling from one location to another, lots of studying and exploring and question-answering, with occasional instances of action. So in that respect, it is fairly standard.
But it's written by Barbara Hambly, and she continues to provide writing that is exceptional in its readability hand-in-hand with characters (and a world) that are complex and easy to love.
A very satisfying mid-80s fantasy, and I look forward to the conclusion of the series.
Riddles and secrets..., July 28, 2003
Reviewer: Michael Dillon (San Jose, CA United States)
This second book of the original trilogy really gets things moving in this world; the crisis of the Dark is fully upon the harried survivors. Only a hanfull of them have a possibility of coping with the situation... not Saving the Day, mind you; just coping. And they don't all play together nicely.
This book is about tangled messes and Gordian knots.
There are problems of politics, civic order, communication, isolation, betrayal, the mystery of the past, the terror of the present, the uncertainty of the future, and of course, the alien-ness of the Dark. The principal characters struggle to gain vital knowledge and help, while having to circumvent those in power (who have taken more immediate tactical solutions). In some ways, this is your classic Crisis Story situation. But it's all the details and discoveries specific to this world that make this one fascinating.
During the tale, several unsettling suspicions and implications draw together and begin to form a horrifying net of facts; things are even more bleak than we thought! Sure, not ALL of humanity will be killed, but the survivors (and their possible descendants) are gonna have a nasty time just staying alive in the crowded safety of the Keep, since nobody knows how people managed it last time this happened!
The second book in Hambly's "Time of the Dark" trilogy. While this book is paced a bit slower than the other two, it adds drama and character development to the series. In this way, it has similarities to Tolkien's "Two Towers." Many might draw other parallels between Hambly's trilogy and Tolkien's, but I feel that Hambly excels at characterization. Her characters are not from the same heroic mold, although many of the protagonists have heroic traits. They also have humanizing flaws and idiosyncracies. Her plot is also more intimate in scope, though of a similar "ultimate enemy of the people" type. I found this series memorable, even after 20-odd years, which is a recommendation in itself, given the sheer number of books I go through.
The best so far of this series. It looked as if the Kingdom of Dare was going to succumb either to the Dark, the cold, or their internal politicking. But with the combined efforts of Ingold, his student Rudy, Minalde (Queen of Darwath), and Gil Patterson (former grad student and soldier) they are able to save the day. Lots of action with some interesting romances thrown in.
As usual Barbara Hambly has written a story that makes the characters come alive! A very good book!