Kingdom of Cascade

(1) "The Guide's Way" (Sentinel)

By CiceroCat
Reviewed by Kathryn A on 29th January 2001 (1)

I read this because I'd seen a couple of people raving about it, saying that if you liked Susan Foster, you'd like this. Given my mixed feelings about Susan Foster's stories, it was with a little misgiving that I read this -- and was pleasantly surprised. Yes, they were right; if you like Susan Foster you will like this -- and if you dislike Susan Foster's stuff, you may still like this. Unless of course you can't stand fantasy-flavoured AUs on principle. I can see the Susan Foster influence, but happily, this isn't rated M for sex-deviant psychopaths, and if Jim is behaving like an animal (snicker) there's good reason for it.

I'm a sucker for psi (even when it's magical and not Sci). I also like that Jim seemed to have come to terms with his Sentinelness -- probably because he's had a lot of time to realize that he's stuck with it. I can see the potential for interesting adventures in the future -- even up to political intrigue, if the author feels so inclined.

The world-building is a bit inconsistent -- there are points where this simply doesn't feel like a classic fantasy world. The commoners are educated enough that it's no surprise that they can read, yet Blair is so downtrodden that he expects any member of the nobility to treat him with contempt and injustice. WimpyBlair strikes again -- though I realize that I don't actually mind a WimpyBlair if the backstory gives a reasonable explanation as to why his character is like that (as, for example, in Susan Foster's GDP series, there is darn good reason for that Blair to be wimpy). At least there was an explanation here, but it wasn't sufficient. Another inconsistency is the decree that magic usage by commoners is illegal, that only nobility are mages, yet you also have nobility like the Ellisons who don't want anything to do with magic. I guess I'm thinking a little Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series here, where the nobility has something which sets them apart like magic, (laran) and that thing is what sets them apart, so it's rare to find a noble house which doesn't have laran. Another thing, which I guess is hard to balance, is that Blair's style of speech, while Blair-ish, seems out of place, too modern, in this setting. Likewise Jim's use of "Chief" as a nickname seems a little out of place.

But it's got tear-prick angst and affection, I like this! I want more.

It would also be good to see a companion piece from Jim's point of view.