‘Lost Truth’ is in fact the fourth and currently final book of the fantasy ‘Truth’ series by Dawn Cook. ‘First Truth’, ‘Hidden Truth’ and ‘Forgotten Truth’ being the first three. A reader often faces a dilemma when starting a series in the middle. How hard will it be to pick up the story? Will the characters make sense? How much work do we need to do to enjoy the book? It seems that with ‘Lost Truth’, the answers are fairly simple.
As I expected, a bit of work was required at the start. There is some assumption of familiarity, especially with certain concepts. For example, in the very first chapter we meet the heroine, Alissa, as she flies across the mountains in her alternative form to visit the abandoned farm of her mother. I initially imagined this as some kind of bird-form, but in time I realised that, as a Master (note the capital M), Alissa can transform between human and dragon-like form at will. From reading ‘Lost Truth’, I got the impression that the previous volumes contained some exciting and interesting events, such as magical trips into the past, but ‘Lost Truth’ contains no synopsis of what has come before and the reader is left to piece things together. ‘Lost Truth’ doesn’t even introduce us to the setting. Instead, the reader gathers that the story takes place in a straightforward medieval world where Masters can perform wondrous works of magic, except that ‘Lost Truth’ hints it is not magic, just easily thought of so, without explaining something else from an earlier book? This was quite a problem in the book and it would have been nice to get a brief introduction or at least have important concepts explained better.
Despite small bits of confusion like this, Cook instils her cast with colourful detail quickly. Alissa is a young woman with a rebellious nature who has been taught the ways of magic in the previous volumes. She chafes under the restrictions placed on her by her teacher, the venerable and powerful six hundred year-old Master Talo-Toecan. Rounding out the cast, we have Strell, the non-Master and non-magical young man with a gift as a bard. We also have the more experienced and subtle male Keeper Lodesh, with lesser magical abilities than a Master. Finally, we have Connen-Neute, who as a Master who had been considered `feral’, a state in which the baser, animal instincts take over a Master, until Ahlissa brought his consciousness forward through time to heal his state, is effectively both hundreds of years old physically, but mentally still a young man. As Masters seem to live enormously long life-spans (immortal? ‘Lost Truth’ never says), Connen-Neute’s body is still appropriate for a young man. Lucky that. These are all overseen by Talo-Toecan, whom Alissa affectionately nicknames ‘Useless’. I’m sure there is fine logic for this from the previous books, but it seemed pretty disrespectful to me.
These five folk live in an enormous and abandoned hold, which once served as the home for a community of hundreds of Masters. This community, under the leadership of Keribdis (Talo-Toecan’s wife), quit the hold and departed hundreds of years before the novel starts, due to a philosophical difference concerning control of the surrounding populations. Basically, Talo-Toecan argued for allowing the people more freedom, while the rest of the Masters insisted upon continuing their policy of strict segregation and breeding control. Talo-Toecan gave up on them as dead hundreds of years past.
But now, Alissa is having dreams in which she contacts a young apprentice Master girl named Silla and Talo-Toecan realises that the departed Masters are still alive. While the argument with his wife still stands, Talo-Toecan is too proud to set out to find the other Masters, so Alissa determines to set out and find them with Strell, Lodesh and Connen-Neute. During a journey across the coastlands and a sea voyage, the relationship between Alissa and her companions deepens. She manages to resolve the three way love triangle between her, Strell and Lodesh. Eventually, Alissa is surprised by what they find when they locate the Masters.
The novel is pleasantly written and does a good job of invoking the familiar feeling that comfortable seeming fantasy always invokes in the experienced reader. Fun scenes in dockside taverns with colourful characters from Strell’s past feel almost a vintage staple of the genre. However, this does not elevate the book beyond its peers. ‘Lost Truth’ is really quite a generic, if palatable, fantasy and offers little that cannot be found in dozens if not hundreds of similar novels.
Furthermore, this novel suffers due to having only a weak `quest’ style structure. Essentially, there is no opposition; no evil character who must be defeated before disaster strikes. This gives the novel a very relaxed feeling; it is more exposition then story, and brings to mind some of the later ‘Dragonrider’ novels where McCaffrey was explaining the background to Pern. It feels as if all the plot has already been told in the previous volumes.
Of course, this reviewer has spent the last thirty years meandering through as many fantasy series as possible, so maybe the generic feeling arises from having seen too many of this sort of book. From Alissa’s PG-rated musings on whether to consider sexual relations with either Strell or Lodesh, I suspect that this book is most aptly aimed at the young adult audience. Certainly, the text is not particularly challenging. It is quite possible that the teenage reader will find more freshness in the ‘Truth’ series. Certainly, a reader who has enjoyed those first three volumes would find ‘Lost Truth’ to be more of the same. As it is, I found it a rather mild, if enjoyable experience. I just recommend that the interested reader start with ‘First Truth’, it will surely all make better sense that way.
(pub: Ace. 356 page paperback. Price: $ 7.99 (US), $10.99 (CAN). ISBN: 0-441-01228-0)
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