Seeker’s Bane by P. C. Hodgell
Seeker’s Bane is the sequel to The God Stalker Chronicles, which is to say, it’s the omnibus collection of the next two books in the series, Seeker’s Mask and To Ride a Rathorn.
In Seeker’s Mask, in the wake of her tumultuous appearance at the Cataracts in the last book, Jame has been relegated to the world of high-born women. Since Jamethiel’s powers made the fall of Gerridon possible, since her time High-born women have been restricted to “The women’s halls”, currently located at Gothregor, the High Lord’s estate. They are supposed to gain power only through marriage/concubinage and the control of bloodlines, but of course they have their own view of things. Decorum and proper behaviour are what they teach, and Jame fits in about as well as you’d think. Of course, they think they can control her, but they don’t realise that the only reason she remains is that she wants to. She wants to fit in with her people.
Of course, there are complications beyond her unique skill set. Several decades before, someone hired a group of assassins to kill all the women in her family. One escaped, hidden in the back corridors for decades, giving birth to a bastard child and then dying, eventually (this does, to those who keep track of bloodlines, raise the issue of how Torri and Jame could be full-blooded members of their family. Who did their father marry?). There is also the question of who hired the assassins in the first place, and will they send them back now that Jame’s there? Of course they do, though the assassins aren’t prepared for Jame.
Still, she winds up having to flee Gothregor, and teams up with a group of her family’s attendants (warrior cadets at the war-school of Tentir) to rescue her unwanted servant from the Caineron family, and then the lot of them get stuck in the Scrollsmen’s College during a weirdstorm, in which the river valley is blanketed in weird mist that relocates everything in it, including the college. Jame ends up involved in the seasonal rites of the indigenous people.
Tori, meanwhile, is dealing with both financial problems and the inability to remember the names of his followers, crucial in a High Lord. And . . . well, there’s other stuff with him that I don’t want to get into. At the end, Jame gets assigned as Tori’s heir (Lordan) and sent to Tentir, to learn to be a warrior.
Which is the main story of To Ride a Rathorn. Rathorns are the carnivorous armoured unicorns I mentioned in the last review, and are the symbol of Jame and Torisen’s house. Jame gets the whole school experience here; as a noblewoman she is too important to get the kind of harrassment that was common in these stories, but the school is currently run by the Caineron, who hate her. And she has to pass three culls in the course of the year, not to mention figure out what happened when her father and Uncle were here as students. Something terrible happened that helped turn her father into the horrible man that she remembers. She’s seeing it in her dreams . . . the problem is that Tori is too.
The high quality of the first two books keeps up here. Highly recommended.
Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
A re-read. The original is here. No change in my opinion. Still highly recommended.