Judith Tarr – Arrows Of The Sun

I do not intend to start reading a fantasy series somewhere in the middle but sometimes you don’t have much of a choice. In this case the series is that unknown that it is remarkable that I found a novel of it in a second hand bookstore. Reading the whole series I would only do after I had judged one of the novels. Fortunately in this case the novel seemed to contain a fairly self-contained story. There are some references to earlier events and the role they play in the novel is such that it would be similar to any other true standalone novel.

Arrows Of The Sun (1993) by Judith Tarr is the fourth novel in the Avaryan Rising fantasy series. It is about the rulers of a multi-ethnic empire who have access to great magical powers although they cannot wield it that easily and there are plenty of others who possess magical powers. The magical system is broad and covers a range of elemental-like abilities. As this is a later novel in the series there are no explanations as particular introductions would have been provided in the earlier novels. In a way it is refreshing to figure things out from the provided information alone. The magic is not that unusual, for the experienced fantasy reader, that it may be hard to be make sense of.

The multi-ethnic character of the setting is a nice change from any usual fare as most characters are either darkskinned or have asian features. White-skinned people only play a minor role in the story. The cultural aspects within the world are also different and resemble the ancient Middle East and eastasian styles to some extent. As the plot focuses mainly on the asian part of the empire Tarr provides most details of that particular culture and she sets this up in a nice way. She does so to a certain degree so that it does not dominate the story too much.

Cultural and ethnic differences form a strong component for tensions and developments in the plot. The empire of itself has a rather modern nature. The laws are benevolent and social classes can easily be risen out of, with many women holding positions of power. One relatively new and large part of the empire is very much the opposite of this all. The plot iself is about the ruler trying to come to terms with this opposite part of his empire while a conspiracy tries to undo the union between their lands.

As is typical for many female fantasy authors Tarr keeps a strong focus on her story. We see different sides from a couple of viewpoints but they all tell parts of the same story while events unfold. In a way it is a waiting game. Who will break first and make an error? Even within the ranks of the so-called good and bad guys there is no absolute unity and each side tries to cope with varying attempts to influence events. Tarr works it out well and by also keeping staying close to a few central characters she lets them go through a considerable character development by imposing different kinds of challenges and changes to them. She does not hesitate to kill off characters that would not have been touched by most authors and for such a relatively old work this can be considered quite progressive.

I quite enjoyed the novel as it hold older type fantasy elements and new ones. The strong development of the characters resonated well and although not all characters were likeable I could make a connection to many of them. The empire, for so far as it was visible, felt a bit too happy-go-lucky, making an odd contrast with the so different recent addition it had made. I can only assume Tarr wanted to create a so strong contrast as possible to make the changes the main protagonists go through all that stronger. What the novel did succeed in was triggering my interest in reading more novels of the series. The separate books were not that easy to find online although two omnibus editions are quite available. I thus hope to read more on the Avaryan Rising soon.

Comments are closed.