It seems whenever Chris Heimerdinger picks a genre to write in then he does much better. His first book was firmly historical fiction – with a contrived passage through time – that worked was brilliant. The second one was quite decidedly a fantasy with a magic sword, sorcerers, coffers and assassins. This is my favorite of the series and is the only one where none of the main characters travel in time. The third and fourth books went back to being historical fiction again with a little bit of murder mystery thrown in at the beginning. These ones were also quite good.
Then he started the trilogy that consisted of The Sacred Quest, The Lost Scrolls, and The Golden Crown. These ones tried to toe the line between fantasy and historical fiction. There are sorcerers that do fantastical things while the book insists that they are all just deceptions. The problem with that is that there is never any explanation about how those deceptions are carried out. Even a few of those magical acts were explained the stories might have made more sense. The books have a cult that can control who will be bitten by a snake and Scythians who can smell better than dogs and whole load of silliness that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever because at the heart of the books they are trying to be historical fiction. These ones just kept getting worse the farther along they got. This is also another instance where the research got in the way of the story. Heimerdinger seemed intent on putting his characters in places just to witness some obscure historical event or meet some historical figure.
For this next series of books he’s decided to firmly plant his foot in fantasy and the result is surprisingly good. This book completely ignores the storyline of Meagan, Apollus and Ryan in the America’s and focuses on Mary, Rebekah and Joshua. Harry and Stephanie also join in.
There are magic stones that good guys can use to figure out how to travel in time and how to fly ancient gliders. There is a magic sword that talks to people and corrupts them in almost the same way that the One Ring does (it’s the same one destroyed in ‘Gadiantons’ – time travel, you know). The Tower of Babel is so high that it reaches beyond the clouds and somehow is also recognizable as a Ziggurat. There is a city inhabited by angels that floats in the sky. Each of these things sounds more and more preposterous but feels less and less unbelievable as the story moves along because it is a fantasy. In this fantasy world cities can float and stones can give revelation to people. What makes it even more interesting is that much of the magic is merely a fantastical spin on actual gospel lore – the magic stones are supposed to be a Urim and Thummim. We know very little about the world at the time of the Tower of Babel and that makes it feel like a fantastical place – people live hundreds of years still, they believe that they can reach heaven through a tower – and why not if it’s so close that you can see it.
The story is captivating. Heimerdinger has finally found a way to portray characters that are not all copies of each other. The simplistic view of romance is still there from the other books. Some new characters show up that are different enough to seem real. The history and culture – and arrogance – of the people of Nehor are fascinating.
I enjoyed this book and found that the adventure and wonder make for a captivating story. I found I was a little sad that there are no more stories set in this ancient time – at least not yet.