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September 4, 2011

Review – “The Silence of Medair” by Andrea K. Höst

Filed under: reviewage,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 1:18 am

Medair an Rynstar has to be counted among the least fortunate heroes in all fantasy fiction. After a small error of judgment on the eve of an epic triumph over an overwhelming enemy, she is robbed of the chance to save her beloved Empire. Thrust into a homeland transformed by the hated invaders, she wants nothing more than to hide away in exile and nurse her grief. But after she escapes an unexplained kidnapping attempt, she finds herself in the service of her most reviled enemy. Now she is forced to choose between her oath of loyalty to a dead emperor and the realities of her new world.

Medair is an unusual fantasy heroine. She is a strong woman of conviction without a place in the world, a diplomat left with nobody to speak for and an unremarkable mage in possession of the magical equivalent of a tactical nuke, a weapon too powerful to be of any use. Her decisions – to keep secrets and serve nobody – draw her back to the centre of world affairs, the last place she wants to be.

Andrea Höst’s evocative prose paints rich landscapes, whether she is dealing with her sumptuous world of world-breaking magic, the tenuous social fabric of a conquered empire or the inner torment of Medair herself. And it is with her compelling and complex protagonist that Höst’s work excels: Medair is a complex and compelling protagonist. She is guarded and resourceful, clever and insightful, secretive and tenacious. She is loyal to her values yet unable to completely surrender to justified hatred for her enemies and wearied by a cruel misfortune which carries with it more than a hint of predestination.

The Silence of Medair is on the one hand stirring and emotional high fantasy, with the requisite invasions by sorceror-armies, magical shenanigans, political intrigues and scenes of apocalyptic destruction. But it is also a tense emotional drama, a subtle and elegant romance, a haunting meditation on survivor guilt and a frank exploration of the political and emotional underpinnings of racism. It’s a lot to live up to, but Höst handles it with aplomb. I can’t recommend it enough.

What’s more, it ends on a cracking cliffhanger. I’m glad the sequel’s out already. Both are available from Amazon (in paperback or electronic format) and Smashwords.

4 Comments »

  1. Cool review Dave. 🙂

    Comment by Andrea — September 4, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  2. You’re very welcome. I took real pleasure in coming back to this story after such a long time (more than 10 years) and finding I enjoyed it every bit as much as I remember. I just realised that while my recollection of the details of events in the story had faded, I remembered Medair’s emotional arc with crystal clarity. That’s almost exactly the opposite of what usually happens when I reread a book after a long absence.

    Comment by lexifab — September 4, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

  3. I was once told by an agent that Medair doesn’t have “enough to do” to sustain a fantasy novel. Ignoring that she actually ‘does’ a fair deal, it’s not what she does, but how she feels which is the crux of the story. So it’s good that how she feels is the part which remains strongly in mind.

    Comment by Andrea — September 4, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

  4. Interesting complaint. It’s true that she’s not fiction’s most proactive protagonist – I would call her pretty much a classic “I just want to be left alone” Reluctant Hero – but virtually everything that happens is as either a direct or tangental consequence of her decisions and actions. She’s hardly a bystander to the action. And she’s certain more decisive than the majority of romantic heroines I’ve come across (excepting several of Georgette Heyer’s) so it’s not much of a criticism from that angle either.

    I suppose it’s a case of not fitting neatly into either the standard basic box shape for either fantasy or romance, thus rendering it unmarketable without an effort of imagination… 🙂

    Comment by lexifab — September 4, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

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