Friday Review: Against the Light by Dave Duncan

Against the LightAgainst the Light by Dave Duncan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Woodbridge family are worshippers of the Mother, an old faith that has been supplanted by the Children of the Light. The followers of the old faith are endowed with various talents which enable them to influence the actions of others, seem invisible, or manipulate physical objects, among others. The Children denounce these talents as witchcraft and persecute those of the old faith as heretics. Rollo Woodbridge, the eldest, went to a neighboring country to study his craft, as he has been gifted with more of the talents than most. When he returns home to serve as a clandestine missionary, he is arrested and tortured, with execution to follow. The Heirarchy of the Light use the opportunity to attack his family. Maddy, the daughter, is married off to a distant relative of the Church leader and his politically connected brother. The rest of the family is attacked and presumably killed. Maddy swears revenge and leaves her husband to work her way into the high society to gain the position she will need to do so. Rollo is rescued, and their youngest brother, also a major talent, is saved by his familiar, a black dog named Smut, who leads him away from home at the right time to avoid the massacre. All three are determined to change the world they live in, each in their own way and not knowing the others have survived. When their fates begin to converge once again, they will need to work together and with former enemies to get their revenge.

This was an pretty good book. The basic plot- old religion supplanted by new order which hunts down and persecutes them- is not a new one in fantasy, or fiction, for that matter. But it is handled well here, and the book really revolves on the characters more than the plot. All of the main characters are well done, although I did find it a bit disheartening to see Maddy fall back on the trope of using her sex to get what she wanted. On the other hand, it was this that led to the story its main romantic subplot. And, while all three siblings wanted to avenge their families, they were far different in their approaches. Maddy was shrewd and planned every step. Rollo preferred a non-violent course, and Bram was the impulsive hothead. All three grew and changed believably throughout the course of the story. Secondary characters were more than just window dressing, and added reliably to the plot.

The action moved quickly with few slow spots in the narrative. Some of the scenes with Rollo in the prison might be a bit much for their graphic description of his torture, but there was nothing overtly gory. The setting was defined, without being overdone. The feel of the 16th century time was good, despite some intrusions of modern bits that felt a little out of place. The ending left the way for a sequel without leaving too many loose strings.

This was an enjoyable read, and a good alternate history fantasy.

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