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Seventh Decimate: The Great God's War


Seventh Decimate: The Great God's War

For nine years, Stephen R. Donaldson fulfilled the wishes of countless readers by bringing The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant to an official end, laboring over and releasing the final four installments of his epic saga. Of course, this led to the question: What next? After a volume collecting two novellas, Donaldson has now launched a new trilogy, The Great God's War, and gives us what we expect from a Donaldson novel --- layers of history, moral reflection, characters caught between two warring choices, and enough of a cliffhanger to leave a reader groaning and waiting for book two.

In SEVENTH DECIMATE, we are introduced to the kingdom of Belleger, locked in eternal war with their neighbor, Amika, due to an ages-old conflict between brothers who had the misfortune of falling for the same woman. Amika always has the better of the battles because their Magisters wield powerful Decimates --- spells --- such as Pestilence, Fire and Lightning, and they have greater numbers than Belleger. Now, however, Belleger has a new weapon to hopefully turn the tide: rifles. Led by Prince Bifalt, the forces of Belleger unleash these new weapons, but in the battle, Bifalt is killed by the Decimate of Lightning. As he lay dying, he hears a voice ask one simple question: "Are you ready?"

"SEVENTH DECIMATE is not a mind-blowing fantasy epic. What it is, though, is a subtle and tasteful introduction to what no doubt will be one heck of a journey, delivered in a way that only Donaldson can."

Bifalt is not dead, much to his own surprise and to those who witnessed him being scorched. However, something has gone wrong since the battle. None of Belleger's Magisters can make use of the six Decimates. Magic is erased. It is believed that the Magisters in Amika are to blame, and it is feared that they have learned of a seventh Decimate that has caused this usurpation of power. Bifalt is thus tasked by his father to undertake a quest: to seek the last repository of books and uncover the secret of the seventh Decimate so that Belleger can use it to steal power away from Amika. The biggest problem is that no one knows exactly where the repository is, and once Bifalt and his companions set off, they learn that the world and its people are far more vast and strange than they had ever dreamed. Driven by a lust for vengeance and war, Bifalt refuses to be swayed from his mission.

SEVENTH DECIMATE is, by Donaldson standards, a very short book. Dropping at 307 pages, it is enough to wet your whistle and make you itch for what is to come. In many respects, it reminds me of THE REAL STORY, the opening volume of his incredible and oft-overlooked Gap space opera series. It is quick, introduces us to the core characters who will be featured in the continued story, and establishes moral dilemmas that those characters will struggle with as the saga unfolds.

There are several characters who sweep in and out through the course of the book, and though none of them leaves a lasting impact of any real magnitude, they do radiate with just enough personality and refinement to keep you interested, wondering how they will manipulate the story to their own ends as it proceeds. Bifalt is, of course, the core character. His companion, Elgart, is a warrior now seeming to find a new way. Amandis, the devotee of Spirit, is also a more than capable assassin. Commander Forguile of Amika is who Bifalt finds in the library. Third Father, the mysterious unnamed monk of the Cult of the Many, stands for Bifalt when things begin to devolve at the repository. They all play but a fraction of a part, a branch off the main, but no doubt their roots go deep and will be exposed in the second volume.

It is a good thing to see Donaldson churning out some new adventures. He has always been a writer of impeccable style and a master storyteller. SEVENTH DECIMATE is not a mind-blowing fantasy epic. What it is, though, is a subtle and tasteful introduction to what no doubt will be one heck of a journey, delivered in a way that only Donaldson can.

Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on December 8, 2017

Seventh Decimate: The Great God's War
by Stephen R. Donaldson

  • Publication Date: September 4, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0399586156
  • ISBN-13: 9780399586156