Review: The Tower of Bones by Frank P. Ryan

The Tower of Bones is book two of The Three Powers series and the sequel to The Snowmelt River. The novel continues the adventures of four young people from Earth (Alan, Kate, Mark, and Mo) as they struggle with their destinies in a savage sorcerous world called Tir. The physical action in a brooding romantic landscape that so characterized the first book in this marvellous series is at first replaced by skilfully-presented surreal inner struggles.

Tower of Bones - cover

Charming, sinister, and exciting all rolled into one. The dazzling sequel to The Snowmelt River.

Tir’s powers of evil psychically probe and test Alan, the oldest of the four and bearer of an immense power he as yet does not know how to use. In this unequal battle, dream worlds predominate and much that happens is mental and subjective in nature. Psychic clashes flash across interior landscapes where humans are vulnerable and alone. The bright lights, vivid colours, and kaleidoscopic patterns suggest a special-effects extravaganza from a Hollywood movie. Visualized, mental, and imagined fireworks dazzle the mind.

The story then shifts to rescuing poor kidnapped Kate and overcoming her captor, the unspeakably wicked witch, Olc. Kate’s fairy-tale-like adventures intertwine with those of a great armada sailing into the wilderness to confront the evil that oppresses all of Tir. Kate, who possesses the power to green the grey wastelands, rides the backs of great wolves and awakens sleeping dragons. Alan battles a sinister star that threatens to annihilate the entire fleet. Mark, in another example of the interiority of this novel, has become one with the magical Temple Ship. Yet he longs to become a physical being once more, so he can touch his true love, Nantosueta, the dead queen of fabled Ossierel, who languishes in Dromenon, the world between worlds. Strange young Mo gathers strength while still seeking to understand her obscure powers. As we alternate between characters, the mood of the story changes delightfully. By turns, it becomes charming, amusing, sinister, exciting, and suspenseful.

The young people are all maturing physically as well as mentally and psychologically. They learn that no one, no matter how strong, can be victorious alone. All must work together, each giving what they can, to overcome the forces of evil. An odd assortment of non-human characters stand ready to help and they beautifully enhance the story. Outstanding among these are Qwenquo the wise dwarf mage; Ainé, the young Kyra (queen) of the Amazon Shee; Siam, who leads a tribe of bearlike fisherfolk; the treacherous Snakoil Kawkaw who wants to supplant Siam; Iyezzz, a gargoyle-like creature who guides a small army through a slimy creepy wilderness; and Shaami the singing Cill, a creature of both sea and land and one of the author’s most original creations. Each of these unusual beings has a distinct presence that adds to the novel’s powerful sense of magical strangeness.

The Tower of Bones is a classic tale of good and evil. The story’s great villains are always utterly evil. They engage in cruelty, torture, and brutality for the sake of these things. They practice barbarous imprisonment and revel in calculated betrayal. They seek world domination and the crushing of all who stand against them. In the grandest of traditions, those who are good suffer at the hands of these monsters while striving to overturn their immense power.

Like its predecessor, The Snowmelt River, this novel features vividly depicted landscapes. The action ranges across ancient walled cities, a wide stormy sea, an underwater civilization, a voracious wilderness, a war-decimated plain – as well as the inner mindscapes of its primary characters. At the end of their trials and travels, Alan, Kate, and Mo discover that they must face not just the vicious witch, Olc, but a godlike Titan she has foolishly awakened. The struggle reaches cosmic proportions. Bodiless Mark has chosen to walk his own path in search of resurrection into physical life. The portal stands open for the next novel in The Three Powers series.

Author: Thomas Cotterill

I am a manic-depressive made philosophical by my long struggle with the disruptive mood disorder, during which I spent sixteen years living as a forest hermit. I write philosophical essays, fantasy, and science fiction. My attempt to integrate creativity, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality imbues everything I write. You will find hundreds of related essays and articles on my blog. I live quietly in British Columbia's scenic Fraser Valley, a beautiful place in which to wax philosophical.

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