I have reached the half way point in this epic saga written by Janny Wurts. Grand Conspiracy is the start of the series taking on a much larger scope and events from the previous 4 entries will be flipped on its head. Malazan fans know this feeling all to well when new information is introduced that will completely change your perspective of prior scenes (House of Chains anyone?). What is even more amazing is this Grand Conspiracy against the prince of shadow is the culmination of a fifteen year plan and the execution is flawless. The book does end rather suddenly as the events of Grand Conspiracy and the next book Peril’s Gate are very closely connected. All the more reason to jump head first into the next novel! This will be a spoiler free review but I will be touching on certain scenes from previous books.
As the title suggests, Grand Conspiracy is a plan put in place by the Koriani and the Morriel Prime to destroy Arithon. Long time readers of the series will see hints of this plan towards the end of Fugitive Prince and then boom, the first chapter hits like a sixteen wheeler truck. The plan revolves around Fionn Areth being used as a pawn by the Koriani with Elaira being forced to partake in this betrayal. The emotional pain, stress, and sense of dread Elaira has to go through in helping the people she is in service too while feeling a longing desire and love for Arithon that seems like it will never come to fruition is heartbreaking and Arithon feels the same towards Elaira. Their hearts are constantly being shattered while outside forces seek to use them against each other. Halfway through this we get a time jump and the Conspiracy kicks into hyperdrive with so many exciting and intense moments including two shocking revelations in back to back chapters. Lysaer takes more of a back seat in this novel and I won’t get into his plot line as it is riddled with spoilers, but plenty of meat left on the bone for the next entry. The desire for revenge in more than just one facet is the core theme of this story and it may be more complex than you have ever imagined.
Janny writes these books with such care and perfect description that it took me several books to fully understand the subtle hints and clues that are present in the text, sometimes in plain sight. This is a testament to the beautiful prose and mastery of the English language Janny possesses. One small sentence may seem simple enough if you are just glancing over it, but connections are always made to the previous entries and your mind will race trying to figure out what was missed. Janny has assured me that it is almost impossible to understand every nuance and connection on the first readthrough and each reading will give the viewer a different perspective. Throughout my life, I have watched dozens of movies where a revelation at the end will change the outlook for the entire film all together. Those movies become instant rematches but do readers have the same feeling about novels? The obvious difference is the time commitment and people going about their daily lives, but what I found out over this past year is the resiliency of people to double down on the things they love and the book community has expanded greatly because of it.
There is a home for this series among the SFF community and I would put War of Light and Shadow up against pretty much any big Epic Fantasy series you can think of. War of Light and Shadow has quickly jumped into my Top 5 series of all time and I haven’t even made it to the best books in the series yet (according to the die hard fans!). I have many book friends who have said I don’t really want to work for my enjoyment of a book and I just want to be absorbed into a world. That is a fair mindset and I was once in those shoes until Erikson and Janny opened me up to something even bigger. I’m the type of reader who enjoys big twists and being fooled into believing one thing when something else is in the works. The best is yet to come with this series and the payoff is worth the investment. All you have to do is take that first step.