In today’s post, I’ll be sharing my review of Seventh Decimate by Stephen Donaldson. After receiving a copy of The War Within, the sequel from Gollancz, I picked up a copy of Seventh Decimate at my local library. I cannot read books out of a series out of order, so I grabbed my copy of this a month before I planned to read The War Within. Seventh Decimate and The War Within have turned out to be on totally different levels of fantasy… but more on that below!
Seventh Decimate – Stephen Donaldson
The acclaimed author of the Thomas Covenant Chronicles launches a powerful new trilogy about a prince’s desperate quest for a sorcerous library to save his people.
Fire. Wind. Pestilence. Earthquake. Drought. Lightning. These are the six Decimates, wielded by sorcerers for both good and evil.
But a seventh Decimate exists–the most devastating one of all…
For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war, with sorcerers from both sides brandishing the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemy. But somehow, in some way, the Amikans have discovered and invoked a seventh Decimate, one that strips all lesser sorcery of its power. And now the Bellegerins stand defenseless.
Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, would like to see the world wiped free of sorcerers. But it is he who is charged with finding the repository of all of their knowledge, to find the book of the seventh Decimate–and reverse the fate of his land.
All hope rests with Bifalt. But the legendary library, which may or may not exist, lies beyond an unforgiving desert and treacherous mountains–and beyond the borders of his own experience. Wracked by hunger and fatigue, sacrificing loyal men along the way, Bifalt will discover that there is a game being played by those far more powerful than he could ever imagine. And that he is nothing but a pawn…
Seventh Decimate is a classic coming-of-age tale and an intriguing introduction to what will be an epic fantasy series. Prince Bifalt has lived within the threatened borders of Belleger all his life. Constant skirmishes with their neighbours in Amika have been ongoing for generations, sapping all their resources. That is, until one day their magic is gone. Convinced Amika are responsible for their plight, Prince Bifalt sets out on a journey to restore their magic and learns just how small a world he has been living in. There are larger forces at play…
Prince Bifalt himself is far from perfect. As eldest son, he feels the pressure to perform his role and not fail his mission keenly. As the adventure unfolds the prince is filled with even more self doubt and a stubborn arrogance accompanying his birthright. He is ruled by honour and public perception dictates his behaviour a lot – and not always in a good way. I feel Seventh Decimate has set him up in a way that we can expect a lot of personal development from him in future books.
In addition to Bifalt a number of colourful characters are met along the way, which introduces the wider plot for us as the reader.
Seventh Decimate is an enjoyable tale in its own right, however compared to The War Within it’s a mere drop in the ocean. An introduction, really. I feel it deliberately mirrors the main character, Prince Bifalt and his experiences. Up until the end of book one, he is very small-minded about the world and his priorities. In book two he has a far larger weight on his shoulders… but I’ll save the details for my review on The War Within. I only mention it in passing to give an idea of how simplistic his character and plight is by comparison.
I think of Seventh Decimate as the prologue of the series, if I’m honest. Whilst the main action of the series will follow in later books, Seventh Decimate is the opening narrative to introducing the wider world and more complex plot of book two, and hopefully beyond.