The Heart of the Mirage by Glenda Larke
|The Heart of the Mirage by Glenda Larke|
|Reviewer: Natalie Baker|
|Summary: A richly-built world with a company of wonderfully drawn characters and some quite bizarre goings-on, this is a magical story of conspiracy and betrayal that will keep you engrossed and wanting more!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 480||Date: August 2007|
When we first meet Ligea Gayed, she has a rather high opinion of herself. Highly self-confident to the point of being high-handed, more than a little sly, and extremely ambitious, she has taken to the land she was brought up in like a duck to water. She believes Tyrans is a benevolent, cultured empire and looks down on the culture of her birth with some contempt, glad she was stolen away as a child and raised by one of the Generals of Tyr. So she reacts very badly when she is sent on a mission back to Kardiastan to quell a growing conspiracy, although as she is hardly given any information to go on at all, save the leadership of a mysterious Mir Ager, she has a right to be suspicious.
Once Ligea gets to Kardiastan, however, she finds all the certainties she was brought up to believe in count for nothing in this land, and slowly but surely, she finds her life beginning to unravel, and is forced to re-examine both the motives of Tyrans, and above all her own. The novel, narrated in the first person, does this extremely effectively through the many twists and turns of the plot - some obvious, some a complete surprise.
The story doesn't really get going until Ligea and her slaves reach Kardiastan, but they get there relatively early on in the book and after that point I had serious difficulty in putting the book down. It's not just the general storyline of Ligea's changing attitudes, which is very strongly written and allows for more shades of grey than many fantasy novels do, but also a richly imagined and thoroughly believable world - if 'Tyrans', so close to 'tyrant', is perhaps a slightly clichéd name and is very reminiscent of the Roman Empire, occupied Kardiastan is something else again: part Asia-Minor, part magical land. Ligea has special abilities - she can sense thoughts, and know when people are lying - which make her an excellent investigator - and member of the feared Tyranian Brotherhood, but it is not until she reaches Kardiastan she begins to question why she has these powers, and what they can mean.
Into this gritty world of conspiracy and betrayal, the magical factor might in the hands of a lesser writer seem incongruous, but Larke inserts the utterly bizarre in such a way that it seems perfectly natural to the story. It's not only magic, but there are also some strange animals that make the place just that little bit more out of the ordinary.
While some of the lesser characters, particularly the Tyranians, can seem a little two-dimensional, the complicated relationships between the main characters more than make up for it. There is very little happiness in this world, and there are some terribly agonising decisions that have to be made, and if the writing is at times a little clunky, it's only really noticeable because the rest of it flows so well.
The book ends on only a vague sense of having wrapped up one part of the story - this is the first part of a trilogy, however all three books are published already in other parts of the world, and the second book will be released in the UK in December, and the third next May. Although it's not so long to wait, I'm not sure I can hang on that long - I might well break down and bribe some friends on the other side of the world (Glenda Larke is Australian, although she is very well-travelled and now lives in Malaysia) to send the books to me. And if that isn't a recommendation to read these books, I don't know what is. Highly enjoyable, this book's got love, betrayal, skulduggery, espionage, adventure, magic, heartbreak and plenty more besides.
For another brilliant (albeit very different) fantasy world, try A Wizard of Earthsea.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Heart of the Mirage by Glenda Larke at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Heart of the Mirage by Glenda Larke at Amazon.com.
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