BLOOD OF THE FOUR by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
HarperVoyager, pb, £9.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
A collaboration is a very strange creature. Sometimes the result shows up the joins like mating a horse with an eagle. The distinct inheritance of the parts of the hippogryph can clearly be seen. With other pairings, particularly among plants, the result can be more beautiful that the parents. The same with writing. In some instances, a collaboration doesn’t work because it is easy to distinguish who has written each part. The Clovenhoof series by Iain Grant and Heide Goody is a good example of seamless collaboration. Writers often bounce ideas off each other and can come up with something original and spectacular.
Blood of Four is a fantasy involving gods and ambition. It is also examines prejudice and racial subjugation.
There are two opposing strands. The city of Lartha in the island kingdom of Quandis is ruled by Queen Lysandra. She is intent on acquiring the magic locked up beneath the temple of the Four. The Four are the city’s founders. They founded it on the backs of the Bajuman who are slaves. They can be recognised by their pale eyes. The magic, though has driven Lysandra mad. She has her lover killed, his family enslaved and orders all Bajuman killed. She has a son and two daughters. Phela thinks she can handle magic better than her mother and to ensure she becomes the next ruler, arranges her brother’s death. She considers her younger sister irrelevant despite her being betrothed to Demos, the son of her mother’s (now dead) lover. Demos finds himself a slave considered lower than the Bajuman and his understanding of them begins to change.
The other stand involves Bajuman siblings, Blane and Daria. Blane has entered the priesthood where he is treated as an equal with the other novices. His motive is knowledge. He wants to know more about the origins of the Four who enslaved his people and who are considered to be gods. Like Phela, he wants the magic they guard. He believes Daria to be dead. In truth, she was thrown over a cliff by her owner. She survived but the sea battered her and changed the colour of her eyes enough for her to be accepted as higher caste. She has worked her way up to be an admiral of Lartha’s fleet. She is proving the Bajuman are as intelligent as anyone else.
As both Phela and Blane discover the destructive power of the magic, Demos realises that society has been built on injustice.
Both Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon are good writers with many successful novels to their credit. In many ways, this is a standard fantasy and I had hoped that with these two authors collaborating, there would have been some startling twists to the narrative. While I found it a little disappointing, fantasy readers will enjoy this.