Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of The Chronicles of Morgaine by C J Cherryh

Review of The Chronicles of Morgaine by C J Cherryh

Chronicles of Morgaine coverThe Chronicles of Morgaine is a trilogy consisting of Gate of Ivrel (1976), Well of Shiuan (1978) and Fires of Azeroth (1979) (and I’ve just learned there’s a fourth book, written much later: Exile’s Gate – I’ll have to get hold of that). I’ve owned this particular book for two or three years, having bought it on the basis that Stephen Donaldson recommended her (the H at the end of Cherryh was added to make her name seem less feminine). Having bought it, though, something about it put me off reading it. Then, in India, I bought her Fortress in the Eye of Time and enjoyed it, so I finally got round to reading this – and found it to be even better.

The background to the story is reminiscent of Stargate – an ancient race built a network of gates that link distant planets and times. They then proceeded to colonise the many world and ages they found. Unfortunately, all this time travel had a deleterious effect and worlds died in time paradoxes.

At the beginning of the story, all this is quite unknown to the trilogy’s main viewpoint character, Nhi Vanye i Chya. Vanye’s world knows the gates evil sorcery. Vanye is a swordsman and a horseman, bastard son of a ruler, exiled for killing his half brother. Morgaine is a figure of legend to him, a destroyer of nations a century ago – until he meets her, and becomes her servant (which he does because of his exiled state). Thus begins an alliance that starts in fear and necessity and evolves into a complex friendship.

The relationship between the two characters – Vanye with his fraught honour, and Morgaine with her dedication to a lonely task – forms the main subject of the story and it’s a very interesting one, portrayed honestly and without recourse to cliché. The story’s antagonist is introduced subtly and his relationship to Vanye is equally complex and fascinating.

The writing is elegant and features a few idiosyncrasies – the occasional back-to-front syntax to give a slightly archaic feel. It isn’t the kind of story to get the blood pumping – there are very few action scenes and much time is spent on Vanye’s feelings and dilemmas, not to mention a lot of travel.

But it’s very effective at what it does – a kind of melancholy epic that charts an emotional journey for its protagonists as much as a physical journey across worlds.

Categories: Literature, Reviews
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