Thomas has the city of Magnus, and other things his enemies want even more. He is not entirely sure who his enemies are, much less where they are, but they keep leaving him signs. The slaughtered bulls were a pretty clear hint.
He has other hints – hints of help from the people who would be his friends, if they weren’t so suspicious. Caught between a conspiracy and a secret, Thomas is left to grope for answers. The war provides some distraction, though.
In Fortress of Mist Sigmund Brouwer continues the story of the Druids, the Immortals, and Thomas. With the setting-up accomplished, the plot is brisker and more enjoyable. Two of my favorite characters melted into the background. Thomas was, I think, worse as a character for the knight’s disappearance. The dynamic they had developed in the first book – the knight committed to helping Thomas, yet testing and teaching him – was good for him and good for the story.
In stories generally, and in fantasy even more so, male characters tend to outnumber female ones. Merlin’s Immortals is no exception. Yet the female presence seems unusually strong to me. Of both the Druids and the Immortals, it is a woman who is most active and most interesting in the story. Thomas’ teacher, who put him on his quest, was also a woman.
As far as I have seen, there is no real magic in the series. The “potions” and supposed sorcery are only natural tricks made to appear supernatural. The books affirm, however, that the Druids practice human sacrifice, and it is almost impossible to combine that with a studious rejection of genuine witchcraft. I think it is true, as G. K. Chesterton wrote, that pagans practiced such demonic rites not because they were ignorant of how terrible they were, but because they knew. The potent horror of blood and fire was meant to evoke the horrible power of dark forces. It is hard to imagine people who would sacrifice to demons but seek power only from scientists.
I don’t mean this as criticism of the book. The scientific magic is the freshest and most ingenuous element of the series, and we don’t know much of the Druids yet. But come the next book, it will be time to. The hints, along with the game of distrust, have about run their course.
Fortress of Mist is a better book than The Orphan King; I expect the third book will be better yet. Few mysteries have actually been solved, and you know, closing the book, that the characters have a long, and very interesting, way to go yet.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.