CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 4. . . .September 30, 2016
Missing Piece is the third book of Robert Priest’s “Spell Crossed” series, set on the magical Phaer Isle. Five years have passed since the events in Second Kiss. The Spell of Return that Xemion cast in an attempt to save Saheli is reaching its culmination, and Xemion anxiously watches Saheli’s body for signs of life. The Great Kone is exerting a stronger and stronger pull as it approaches its equinox, and many things are being called back to the city of Ulde. Tharfen returns from her five years at sea, now a captain. She has no intention of staying, but she becomes irresistibly entangled with the fate of the city as the piece of Xemion inside her is drawn to him. Meanwhile, the Cyclops fleet approaches with Prince Icrix determined to get revenge on Tharfen for killing his brothers. Governor Lirodello, under the influence of a swamp creature disguised as a woman, breaks the ban on spell use and uses spell kones to help restore the city’s defenses and arm the citizens.
When Xemion and Tharfen meet, they are too angry at each other for the exchange of their missing pieces to take place. Battle with the Cyclops army commences. Tharfen challenges Prince Icrix to single combat, and when he uses dishonorable tactics, she leads him and his commanders into a tunnel and collapses it on them. After the swamp woman turns out to be the missing piece that brings Saheli back to life, Saheli goes searching for Torgee who has another one of her pieces. Xemion joins the battle, gains the courage to use his spell craft again, and rescues Tharfen from the collapsed tunnel. Together, Xemion and Tharfen protect the library from the zealot Montither and are rescued by Poltorir the dragon.
Robert Priest has created a complex world with fascinating magic. The concept of the spell kone is original and intriguing, and the idea that the act of reading is powerful enough to enthrall will strike a chord with any avid reader. Missing Piece has some lyrical descriptions, particularly of the magic and of the significantly creepy monsters and antagonists.
The narration is hampered by multiple points of view, alternating in short chapters that make the novel choppy and hard to follow. Tharfen is the putative protagonist, but, because equal weight is given to Xemion, Lirodello, and several other narrators, it is hard for Tharfen’s journey to hold the novel together.
The characters are all flat, with emotions and motivations dictated by the plot’s requirements; actions and dialog often feel contrived, and the changes in each character are sudden and seemingly arbitrary. The tumultuous history between Xemion, Saheli and Tharfen is resolved in a few paragraphs, with no time given to character growth. The characters are also all adults—Xemion and Tharfen are both eighteen now—with adult concerns, and teen readers may have difficulty connecting to them.
Missing Piece’s strength is also its weakness: the fantasy world with its multi-layered magic system is so richly envisioned that plot and character serve only as vehicles for the development of setting.
Readers who enjoyed the first two books will want to know what happens next: a number of plot threads are resolved and explained in this third book though the ending leaves room for another sequel. Missing Piece doesn’t make sense as a stand-alone, but libraries that found the first two books to be popular will want to get the third.
Recommended with Reservations.
Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three living in Vancouver, BC.
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