C.J. Cherryh – Fires Of Azeroth

The third novel in the Chronicles Of Morgaine fantasy trilogy by C.J. Cherryh is Fires Of Azeroth (1979). Like the previous novel the story can be read on its own although it is a direct sequel to the second novel, Well Of Shiuan. One will miss some references but as a whole the story stands on its own despite the fact that quite some characters from the second novel have moved on to the new world in which the story takes place.

Cherryh creates a very different world compared to the previous ones. The first was a world in relative conflict, the second in peril and the last is quite idyllic which now is very much overturned. While the two central characters are given some time of respite there is no growth of bond or understanding. They remain rather distant and apart despite the harrowing times they have gone through. The peace does not last and while the two stay together much longer than before there is no change in their relationship, certainly no improvement or worsening. As ever they get separated and as before it is the sidekick, from whose viewpoint the story is told, who gets caught by the enemy. Of course he has to stay alive and it is almost odd that no matter the worsening of the situation he always survives. Cherryh does give some explanation but it is not completely convincing. In the final part things become rather chaotic. Little is explained and the lack of a map or a good description of the journey hampers understanding the development of events. Cherryh holds on to the restricted perspective of her main protagonist but as he is often more clueless than insightful it remains rather vague and hard to understand.

As I mentioned before the main protagonist, being the sidekick and uncertain in a nature, is not very likable and more often irritating. His characters hardly develops. He mainly gains experience but this does not help him become a more complete and trustworthy person. To me it is the main frustrating thing about this otherwise interesting and original series.

The plot of the novel is somewhat more varied than the second book but as its length is not long and the time spent on characterization relatively long there is not much room for complexity. Compared to the others there are some possible flaws here that I did not understand. Perhaps I missed some points but there were several kinds of behavior that did not fit a more normal reaction or development. I did not see a clear reason to how the way the final part developed. There is a theme of (self)destruction in the series and while it was acceptable in some occasions in did not do so here.

Cherryh concludes her story in a somewhat humane way which in a way is surprising although previous opportunities were also not used. She tried to tell her story in a different way. The main characters were far from perfect and good and evil are also not absolute. In that sense keeping a hold on one’s humanity could be seen as an underlying theme of the trilogy. Instead of opting for a grand story arc Cherryh opted to tell a much smaller series of stories with dark themes which each held some glimmers of light. I may not be entirely satisfied in the end. That is however not a requirement. Novels can aim to set the reader thinking and this one certainly does.

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