Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Big problems

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne is a real departure from his soon to finish Iron Druid series. Among other things, at over 600 pages, it's his longest published work. It's also high fantasy, coming closer to George R. R. Martin world building than say, Mercedes Lackey.

The known world here has six countries, of which five have kennings from their patron deity at the outset. Five are at peace, with one, Hathrir mostly at detente with the other five. (The Hathrir have the kenning of fire, and are generally larger than the other peoples in the world. Thus one part of the title plague.) 

Since it's part of the series title, a word on the Kennings. Kennings are magics granted by the gods based on a particular element. The elements in question differ a bit from both Western and Eastern elements, as we have Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Plants, and about midway through, Animals. Rumors abound about a Seventh Kenning, but it as of yet remains undefined. Kennings are granted in a fashion where you either get blessed or join the gods. The first we witness, in Forn, involves tree roots sucking seekers into the ground, where they either become blessed or become fertilizer. The others aren't particularly easier sounding, as Air involves throwing one's self off a cliff and Water involves drowning in a tidal pool. Blessings occur in different degrees (as discussed in the book, it seems like most of them have 3 levels), and overusing the power causes the body to age. (This is all more than what the reader is given at the outset, since we more or less jump right in to the book without explanation . We meet our narrator in Brynlon, and he starts relating tales told on Survivor's Field by the bard from Rael.)

See, in Platonic fashion, what we're reading in the journal of Dervan, a recently unemployed historian at the university in Pelemyn. He's good friends with the Pelenaut (leader of the country), who gets him to follow around Fintan and record his stories as well as occasional spycraft.

Finatn's tales give us a view of one of the Hathrir clans sending an invading force into Ghurana Nent to establish a new settlement after a volcano erupts on the old one. This upsets both the Nentians and the Fornians to their south. (Forn is home of the Kenning of Plants. Therefore, the Hathrir burning trees is abominable to them.) In the meantime, what come to be known as Bone Giants start showing up in the East. a single giant winds up in Kauria, where a linguistics expert is brought in to communicate with him.

North of Kauria, invading hordes of Bone Giants arrive on the shores of Brynlon and Rael. The problem being that no one knows really where the giants came from, since the seas are filled with krakens that eat boats since something called The Rift.

And on the Plains of Nent, a young boy discovers the sixth Kenning after being mauled by giants cats.

Fintan tells these stories using his Kenning, which includes a special stone that allows him to take on the appearance of each individual narrating character. And there are a lot of them. Which is good, since it gives us just about everybody's perspective on the simultaneous invasion.

As an added note, two of the narrators are gay men, which was not something I expected in this volume.

It's a good start to however long this series is supposed to go. I'll be interested to see how this progresses, particularly since most of the map remains unexplored.