Voices tells the story of Memer, a girl who lives in an occupied country. Her home, Ansul, has been conquered by the Alds, a desert people from the east, who are now its brutal and superstitious occupiers.
Memer secretly learns of a world of suppressed books and writings, and falls in love with her people's ancient literature; she meets Gry and Orrec, who come to Ansul as travelling storytellers. Together, their entwined fates play out against the outcome of the political struggle of Ansul and the Alds. In Powers , Gavir is a slave who develops a gift for precognition. He is trained to serve as a teacher for a noble family in the city of Etra; but personal tragedy drives him into the life of a hunted wanderer.
He endures adventures, challenges, and suffering. Eventually he escapes to a new and happy life that he shares with Memer, Gry, and Orrec. The main religion of the Western Shore follows three main deities: Ennu Ennu-Amba to the Marsh People , who is portrayed as a Lion and is said to guide souls into the after life; Luck, who rides across the sky in a chariot pulling the sun like the Greek god Apollo ; and Sampa the Destroyer. People in the city states pray to their ancestors.
The second main religion is the one followed by the Desert Alds, who believe that there is only one true god, Atth the god of fire, and that those who survive burns are holy. Their religion led them to invade Ansul because they thought that the Anti-Atth resided around that area; they believed themselves right when they found the great Library of Ansul, because they believe that demons hide within script. They threw all the books and their owners into the harbour because they burn only holy things.
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Ansul has been captured by the desert barbarian Ald, and the whole city is enslaved to them, and longing for freedom. Voices is the story of how Memer grows up and the city becomes free again, and not in an expected way.
Again the physical reality of Ansul is beautifully imagined, and the ritual worship of ancestor shrines and the many gods of the cities is different and effective. Then in Powers we have the story of Gavir, who is a slave.
The children growing up in the earlier two books are heirs of domains, and their inherited magic is the magic of those domains. Etra, where he lives, is much like Republican Rope, with slaves kept in much the same way. Ansul, in Voices , is also a republic, and in Galvamand where Memer lives people can choose to become part of the Galva family, though there is a little distinction between those who have chosen and those who were born to it.
Here we see a horrible perversion of that, where the Family take in the slaves and prevent them from keeping their own children, and the slaves are considered to have no ancestors of their own. Gavir is being trained to be a tutor-slave, and he grows up with the children of the family and the other slaves, all strongly characterised.
Their childhood is in many ways idyllic. He runs away and journeys through many different possibilities before learning who he is, what freedom is, and what he wants. Powers is, like much SF and fantasy, a coming of age story.
It has a detailed complex fantasy world. It also fits together in an economic and political way, it feels as if it has real history and a tradition of literature, and it has odd magics always creeping out of corners. This is a subtle and complex book with a strong thread of story drawing you on through.
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