The Dark Defiles. Book Review

THE DARK DEFILES by Richard Morgan
Gollancz. p/b. 560pp. £9.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

Ringil killed a kraken, on a stormy ocean night, but no one’s given him a new nickname yet. He begins to master his powers, absorbing all he can of all others will teach him. The Dark Defiles indeed.

Anasharal the Helmsman gives Ringil and his soldiers little enough information about their mission. They need to find the Ilwrack Changeling but with Anasharal keeping whatever knowledge of its resting place it has to itself, Ringil has no option but to question the closed-mouthed locals and chase the legends out of their hiding places.

Archeth, Ringil’s old companion, leads the expedition, her disappointment at not finding the buried city growing by the moment, Egar the Dragonbane, who of course is along in the hope of a good battle, at her side. Jhiral and the population of Yhelteth wave them off on their quest, but there is not enough Krinzanz in the ocean right now to ease Archeth’s annoyance with the Helmsman.

The Dark Defiles is the concluding part of the Land Fit for Heroes trilogy, and is just as dark and menacing as the preceding instalments. Ringil once again shines as a protagonist with his often distasteful deeds and desires but an overriding sense of empathy resting with the reader, but in this volume Archeth and the Dragonbane really come into the forefront with both characters taking on large portions of the point of view narrative and doing it with striking power and focus.

The writing is as powerful and on the edge as we have come to expect from this series and shies away from nothing. Grimdark this is, but in the third book the shock factor and sometimes gratuitous use of explicit scenes has been happily left behind for pure storytelling. With good pace, plenty of action, well handled political manoeuvring and excellent characterisation, Morgan delivers a satisfying yet somewhat ambiguous conclusion but the reader is not left wanting for anything as a result.