Thursday, April 13, 2017

Souldancer: Chapters 5-8

Damus and Nahel approach the water shrine hoping to use Xander to book passage with his father's caravan, but are turned away by the acolytes. When a murder is reported, Damus trades Nahel's tracking services for a meeting with the Nesshin. While he waits, Damus encounters a Guild Master, Arcanadeus, who has a proposition for Damus. Meanwhile, out in the desert, Nahel tracks the murderer to a cave. Inside, he finds and kills a Gen shapeshifter.

Xander wakes inside the shrine, and is greeted by Damus, Nahel and the pontifex. They discuss the werewolf Gen, attempting to reason its origin. Arcanadeus interrupts, questioning Xander before offering the exile the opportunity to join the Guild - and a chance to prove himself as a man. Xander accepts, and, in the process, becomes a desert guide to Damus.

Nahel uses a Mystery to reanimate the wolf-Gen for questioning. After blaspheming for a bit, the Gen reveals himself to be Night Gen, under the thrall of Hazeroth, a prince of Hell. His Night Tribe has been promised Mithgar itself in return for finding Souldancers for Shaiel. Afterwards, Arcanadeus says that the means to oppose the Night Gen are at Teran Nazim.

The party leaves Medvia after Xander finds a way to cut their travel in half. To pass the time, Damus tells of the land of Vale and the Journey to Save All Souls, the yearly feeding of the unwanted to the last fire of the Cataclysm in Ostrith. Nahel reveals that he has met the charred from this ritual. The group arrives at Teran Nazim, going underground to enter the complex. Attacked by giant insects, Arcanadeus sets a working and the party runs away.


Of interest is Nahel's statement that he used to work for Midras, but had to change jobs. Right now, little has been revealed of Midras's legends, or how the other gods relate to the creation gods of Zadok and Thera. In Nethereal, references to the creator and his murderous daughter peppered the setting for chapters before their legends were revealed. Midras appears to be in a similar position here in Souldancer.

Navkin has done well for herself since the Cataclysm, ruling the Light Gen kingdom of Avalon from its seat of Seele, which, even if it weren't located in Hell, still maintains its connotations to the soul and one of the most unsettling groups of Secret Kings in anime.

The Night Tribe's other name, isnashi, is the same as that for a legendary Brazilian cryptid more commonly known as the mapinguari.  This red-furred monster is known for its stench, its roar, killing cattle, and ripping out tongues, attributes and deeds assigned to the Night Gen shifter. These particular flaws are likely tied to Shaiel, as the uncorrupted shifters received their power from Faerda. And since Almeth has been trumpeted as an avatar of that goddess, I expect that he will have similar powers.

Nessh, the Nesshin, death worms, the desert, and reverence for water do resonate with the Fremen of Dune. This idea is also driven home by the illustration of a Souldancer that Brian Niemeier commissioned, as the bright blue eyes and the stillsuit-inspired armor evoke the book and the movie.

From his name (or is it a title?) alone, Arcanadeus reveals that he is of the Guild. However, which faction is he a part of? In Nethereal, we saw three different factions, the Guild proper, the Arcana Divines, and a group of secret kings pulling the strings of both. The Divines were the faction who created the Exodus by shackling the saragasso god Elathan and the nine souldancers used to recreated Thera. It's still early to know if the Arcana in his name points to a deeper mystery of the Divines or the kings, or if it only refers to the arcane workings of the Guild.

Finally, just when I got a little too comfortable with the tale of a misfit finding what are likely to be his teachers and father/brother figures, Damus remind us that this is a Soul Cycle book. The ritual that Jemai embarked on in chapter 4 is indeed the Journey to Save All Souls, and his willing sacrifice and impending scalding at the hands of the last ember of Cataclysm is more in line with the horrors of Nethereal than just a shapeshifting beast. Yet Brian is not profligate with his viewpoint characters in the way that Robert Jordan and other epic fantasists are. I'm not writing Jemai off yet.

1 comment:

  1. "...Damus remind us that this is a Soul Cycle book."

    No one is safe!

    Also, bonus points for figuring out the mapingauri reference.