Genre: Fantasy – Epic
Series: The Chronicles of the Exile #3
Publisher: Tor (September 20, 2016)
Length: 544 pages
Rating: 5 stars
With Red Tide, Marc Turner once again has exceeded all my expectations, delivering a complex, page-turning epic which not only expands on The Chronicles of the Exile universe but adds even more wrinkles to it. This novel a mesmerizing tale of old and new characters caught in a literal web of intrigue, conflict, and escalating mystery. Not only is this the best book in the series so far, but it is currently my pick for best fantasy of 2016!
Erupting days after the events portrayed in book two, this story begins the process of integrating the characters and plots from When the Heavens Fall and Dragon Hunters, bringing together new and old characters into the tumultuous aftermath of the havoc wrecked upon the Sabian Sea. All of it beginning in the Rubyholt Isles where the Augerans approach the Warlord of the Isles, seeking passage for their invasion fleet through Rubyholt waters. These island waterways so treacherous with magic and other more mundane obstacles that even these fierce conquerors needing aid to bring their forces to bear on Erin Elal and the Sabian League.
Complicating these negotiations are the Rubyholters themselves; at least, some of them. This land of a thousand islands populated by backstabbing, cutthroat pirates; the Warlords son, Galantas, being one of the most powerful of the moment, and also the individual who sees the Warlord’s plan to aid the Augerans as a sign it is time to replace him – with himself, of course. And helping stoak the flames of unrest and dissent are agents form Erin Elal, lead by Guardian Amerel Duquy; this trusted agent of the Emperor prepared to do anything to anyone in order to complete her mission.
Meanwhile, the Sabian League is still in an uproar after the treachery on Dragon Day. New Emira Mazana Creed’s rule shaky at best and propped up by mercenary forces who face off daily with the former emira’s loyal followers. Many people waiting breathless for Mazana’s response to the Augerans sabotage. From the emira’s pet Guardian Senar Sol to the Chameleon siblings Karmel and Caval to the Spider goddess herself, everyone is caught up in the seething political schemes building within the land of the Storm Lords. All of it coming to a head when Emperor Avallon Delamar of Erin Elal himself request a council to discuss an alliance against the Augerans.
And voluntarily inserting himself into this tinderbox comes Prince Ebon of Galitia, as he sails across the Sabian Sea on a personal quest. His lover Lamella and his brother Rendale having escaped the horrors of the siege of Majack but not having returned, and so he hunts for them across the world, determined to locate them and bring them home – if they remain alive.
So much to love here that it really is hard to know where to start. But I suppose, I will begin with the characters themselves, because no matter how wonderful the world building or intricate the plot a story is only as good as its characters. And with Red Tide, Marc Turner weaves this epic yarn with numerous point-of-view characters; each of them as different in flavor as the people we pass on the street every day, which means there is sure to be one to suit every reader’s taste.
Personally, I felt myself drawn to two in particular: Prince Ebon and Guardian Amerel. Good and bad, if you will. Ebon perfectly portraying the consummate “good guy”, who casts himself into dangerous waters to hunt down and find his lady love and his brother. This quest causing him constant grief and embroiling him in conflicts which he would rather not be involved in. But, at heart, Ebon is a hero, and so he acts like one. On the other hand, Amerel is one hell of a “bad guy”; this Guardian dubbed by me as the female Jorg Ancrath (Jorg being the infamous Prince of Thorns in Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire trilogy), and she is, without a doubt, bad to the bone. Not only will Amerel take down her enemies without any hesitation, but she is cooly ruthless and brutally efficient in her tasks, discarding and double-crossing anyone (and I mean anyone!) she needs to in order to obtain her desired ends. Even those who believe themselves to be experts at the more shadowy art of manipulation and intrigue finding themselves her surprise victims. And I admit being mesmerized by every appearance of Amerel on the page; her deviousness captivating me as no character has since the aforementioned Jorg.
As for the rest of the characters, their individual plot lines were amazing in their own way. Mazana and Senar’s story continuing to grow, further complicated by his divided loyalties. Karmel and Caval familial conflicts simmering yet failing to find a resolution until it is too late. Galantas erupting from the story as a pirate to be feared. And the Spider’s return triumphant, as she weaves her webs of intrigue with help from a returning character. Even a new, dark yet humorous character named Hex a pure delight; his behavior in the tale compared by many to Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. Marc Turner’s tendency to have realistic consequences for all of these people adding an important dimension to every one of their choices and turning every moment with them into a treasure, because, unlike some fantasy series, when your luck runs out in Exile you tend to die (which might or might not be a good thing according to your perspective).
Even with outstanding characters, the bread and butter of The Chronicles of the Exile is the amazing world building and plot however; the only comparison to Marc Turner’s grand vision and epic scope Malazan by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont. Each novel in this series gaining more complexity, requiring more familiarity with the preceding installments to truly grasp all the pieces Marc Turner is juggling. And since Red Tide is book three, this story is all about adding layer upon layer to this magnificent edifice, slowly building the world even more, developing the magic of this place, revealing its shadowy history, and slowly steeping all of these elements together until they thicken and intertwine even more, transforming into a living, breathing place with real people with individual motives approaching one another on a collision course that can only be fully appreciated if you focus all your attention on understanding the brilliant web Marc Turner has woven around them.
Since this is a book I adore, I really do not have any major criticisms to level at Red Tide. Honestly, in its present form, it is as close to perfect for my reading tastes as anything I’ve experienced. However, as a reviewer, the one element I could see others pointing to as an issue would be the pacing. The beginning of the narrative could be a slow go for some, especially those who are not already familiar with these characters and the ongoing story up to this point. For those individuals, Red Tide might overwhelm them briefly with lots of characters, places, past events, and different plot lines to become familiar with before they can truly get into a smooth paced reading of this amazing tale.
Full of unforgettable characters, shocking scenes, amazing plot twists, and even a few darkly humorous moments, Red Tide is yet another triumph for Marc Turner. This novel continuing the rising tide of greatness which will soon make both The Chronicles of the Exile and its author familiar names in the genre, as they take their rightful place among the upper echelon of epic fantasy series penned by greats such as George R.R. Martin, Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont.
I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.