The disruption of the centuries-established power in the Earthsky started affecting Osrakum. Obsidian wanted to recover his rightful place as Emperor and Carnelian wanted freedom for the people of Earthsky. As they forced the structure of the society to conquer their aims, the true history of that society was revealed. The balance of the political powers was breaking and a new balance had to be found.

The Third God is the third and final part of The Stone Dance of the Chameleon, and unifies it into a three volume epic, rather than a trilogy. The plot is complex, taking many twists and turns, to reach an apocalyptic ending. Carnelian – from whose point of view the whole story is told – although not a strong and active hero, proved to have the key role in the events.

The main weakness of Carnelian as a character is his emotional dependence on other characters. But that “over-humanity” may be intended to mark the difference of the deity he represents and emphasize the sadism that is characteristic of the Masters and the Wise.

The ending makes justice to the size and complexity of the work, and it amazed me for its credibility. Political systems tend to be cyclic: sooner or later dominant groups loose strength and fall. Our History tells us that the most stable systems are the ones with strongest hierarchy and religious faith, but even those may fall. It is also interesting to think how time/habit/tradition can give strength to one system that starts in fragile conditions, and how dominant parties seek tradition to make their beginning fall into oblivion.

The Stone Dance of the Chameleon is written in a vivid and colorful way, even if sometimes the presence of blood, death and violence may be considered a bit excessive by some readers. As a Fantasy Epic, its original characters and setting lead the plot to a completely new direction. Time will undoubtedly put it among the Fantasy Classics.


And the story started in The Chosen continues… Carnelian and Obsidian were thrown out of Osrakum and taken for dead in the course of the plots of the Masters. Carnelian’s good nature and naiveté allowed them to be accepted by one of the tribes in Earthsky, among the people that were “leeched” by the Masters to maintain the luxury of Osrakum. While Carnelian was educated far from the plots of Osrakum by a woman from Earthsky, Obsidian had the true nature of a Master and could not accept a life among lower people.

Although The Standing Dead is the continuation of The Chosen, and the events of The Chosen are essential to understand it, the plot and the thematic take a huge turn. In The Chosen the background unfolds in front of Carnelian, who was taking his first steps in the (poisoned) heaven of Osrakum. In The Standing Dead the main characters – Carnelian and Obsidian – were in a critic situation and were forced to develop themselves, which they did according to their own natures. Carnelian, with his simplicity and kind nature, wished to mingle with the tribe’s people, who were more similar to him than the Masters; and Obsidian, intrinsically Master of the Masters, recoiled to himself to show later his ability to manipulate and dominate people.

The comparison of the societies in Osrakum and in Earthsky is fascinating, as it is the way that Osrakum controls the people of Earthsky by their most individual and human egoism. The deep changes operated by Obsidian in Earthsky are also amazingly credible, especially as the human factor in them is perfectly recognizable. We may find examples of similar changes in World History (even if we are not proud of them).

The relationship of Carnelian and Obsidian also suffered a strange development. As both characters evolved in such different ways, and the strain imposed to them would not allow romantic love, their relationship evolved to a strong and weird partnership as if they were a long married couple. Although this relationship became so strange that it merged the impossible, it is so well (and subtly) described that it becomes amazingly credible.

And the plot continues in The Third God

Lord Suth was one of the most powerful noblemen in Osrakum, but was forced to exile by his enemies. His son Carnelian grew up in exile with a luxurious household, but without ever knowing the excesses of life in court.

One day a delegation arrived from Osrakum bringing the news of the eminent death of the Emperor, and the need of Lord Suth’s return to supervise the election of the new Emperor – every Emperor must have twin sons, one should be elected Emperor after his father’s death, the other should die during the coronation of his brother.

The journey of Carnilean and his father back to the court in Osrakum begins, bringing back all social ways that were neglected in exile and that Carnelian never knew about.

The society in Osrakum is highly stratified, with an aristocracy made of big and beautiful people who live in luxury and have an obsession about blood purity and lineage, which is directly related to social status. The aristocracy is served by slaves, who are smaller and uglier people taken as a tax from tribes that consider the aristocracy as divinity. The slaves are treated as objects that could be used and discarded at will.

Another feature of this society is the use of masks. Aristocrats wear masks that must be taken out as soon as the highest one shows his face. If the difference of rank is too big, it is a crime for the lower ranked aristocrat to look at the face of his superior, and the sentence for this crime is death. A slave that sees the face of a Lord must die immediately.

The Chosen is the first volume of The Stone Dance of the Chameleon, and it mainly consists of the return of Lord Suth and Carnelian to Osrakum. The narration is centered in Carnelian, who is so familiar with that world and that society as the reader. The story itself just begins by the end of the book, when Carnelian meets and falls in love with Obsidian, and the election takes place. Although most of this volume seems like a contextualization, it does not become boring as there is always the feeling of excitement as this fantastic – and sometimes nightmarish – world is created in front of Carnelian (and the reader). It is a kind of big scale social experiment.

The Chosen is followed by The Standing Dead and The Third God.

Those were unstable times in the Archipelago of Earthsea. The last King of Earthsea was gone many centuries before and the Kingdom had divided in many principalities and domains, which not always held peaceful relations.

Arren, the young prince of Enlad, travelled to the island of Roke to ask help to the Archmage of the wizardry school. Magic was losing power throughout Eartsea, except in the well protected island of Roke, and magical animals and wizards were sickening and going mad. In the Assembly of the highest mages of the school, the Archmage (Sparrohawk/Ged from A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan) decided to go himself in search for the reason of the disturbances in magic. He only accepted the company of Arren, who had no magic, in spite of his royal lineage.

The Farthest Shore is the third book of the Earthsea series. As in the two first books, the plot stands by itself, and is about the personal growth of a character, in this case Arren, from whose point of view the story is told. It is also centered in the character of Ged/Sparrowhawk, who became a mature magician and the Archmage of Roke.

As there are many thematic and structural similarities between The Farthest Shore and A Wizard of Earthsea, and the third book lacks the novelty that was offered in the first book of the series, the comparison might favor A Wizard of Earthsea. However the two books are brilliantly written, and there are many slight differences between Ged’s and Arren’s stories so that it is worth to notice how they complement each other. The Farthest Shore also brings a different kind of gloomy and vicious environment to the Earthsea World, which makes it essential to anyone who became fascinated by the first two books of the series.

The Farthest Shore won the 1973 National Book Award for Children’s Books.

New York. Future (undetermined).

The world population has decreased to an extremely low number and no children have been produced in the last years. People are educated to live in a constantly drugged state, caring just for their individual pleasure, and to interrupt someone’s inwardness is a crime. The teaching of reading is forbidden, as it is a way of someone’s thoughts invade other people’s minds. Decaying robots care for (and control) the humans.

By chance, Paul Bentley learns how to read by himself through old children’s books. He is employed by the dean of the NYU, Robert Spofforth, a Make Nine robot. Make Nine robots were the most perfect super-intelligent robots, but all of them committed suicide, except for Sporfforth, that wished it, but was programmed not to. While in New York, Bentley meets Mary Lou, a woman who had a very high IQ and escaped the educational program. These three characters are the only intelligent beings left in the world…

Mockingbird is the story of three very different characters that, together, hold the key of humanity in their hands and don’t know how to deal with each other. This book is built in a very interesting concept: humans created technology to help them; humans relied on technology for all their problems and lost all technological knowledge; humans got controlled by technology; without supervising, technology started decaying and dragging humanity with it. The main storyline becomes rather ordinary, especially towards the end, but the book is brilliant for its intelligent writing and awareness of the social problems that started to be felt in the 80’s, when it was first published, and became worse nowadays.

Will Rabjohns was the most controversial wildlife photographer in the world, who had made his reputation by cruel photographs of the life of endangered species.

While shooting polar bears in the Artic he was attacked by a female bear that left him in coma for several weeks.

Will revisited his childhood in his coma, at the time when he met a couple who had a major influence in his life as an artist and as a man. Will’s parents lived with the trauma of the loss of their favorite son and so Jacob Steep and Rosa McGee offered Will the love his own family denied him. However, this was no ordinary couple: Rosa and Jacob were centuries old, didn’t remember their childhood or even knew who they were. They wandered together around the world, Rosa lusting for sadistic sexual pleasure and wishing to have children, and Jacob taking pleasure on the death of animals (especially if they were the last of a species) and killing his and Rosa’s children.

Although Will was separated from Rosa and Jacob, a mysterious bond between him and Jacob was created.

When Will woke from the coma he started a journey to discover the nature of his bond to Jacob and Rosa, and the role all them would play in the destiny of Life.

Sacrament is rich in symbology, which is used to tackle two main subjects at the same time and to draw a parallelism between them. The first is the boom of animal extinctions caused by Man, the “disease” of Life in Earth. The second is the boom of death among gay people caused by AIDS. Will Rabjohns, as a photographer and a gay man, watches and portrays the disease, struggle to survive and near extinction of wildlife/gay people.

The characters in Sacrament are well drawn and filled with pure raw energy – life and death energy. The symbolic elements give a vivid color to the novel, especially in the most melancholic parts where it could have turned dull. There are also some funny and dark humored moments and thoughts. For instance,  Jacob Steep, whose hobby was to kill the last specimens of a species, was strongly annoyed by homosexual people. Even if he managed to wipe out every homosexual from the Earth, they would still be born and “slyly” recover their numbers.

However, sometimes the symbology seemed a bit forced, or that it was getting out of control. Also, the references to God did not help.

Even with its flaws, Sacrament is highly imaginative and interesting to read. A special praise must be done to it: the plague of AIDS in the American gay community during the 80’s inspired thousands of novels (to nausea), but in Sacrament the approach is different enough to make it worth reading.

Tenar was born in the same day the High Priestess in the service of the “Nameless Ones” died. She showed all the signs to be considered the High Priestess reborn, so when she was 5 years old she was taken to be trained to be High Priestess (that is, to be remembered about her previous reincarnation).

Tenar became Arha, “the eaten one”, a child-priestess of dark cruel rituals and the guardian of the places where the malevolent and powerful “Nameless Ones” dwelt – an unlit underground chamber leading to a labyrinth where a legendary treasure was hidden. Just higher priestesses were allowed there, and any trespassers would meet a slow painful death, chosen by Arha.

As Arha became aware of the political machinations of the older priestess, who had no real faith, she began to retreat herself to her underground dark realm.

One day a trespasser got in, and Arha became aware of what she already had begun to realize.

The Tombs of Atuan is the second book of the Earthsea series. It is connected to the previous book,  A Wizard of Earthsea, by the character of Ged (the trespasser), but the story stands by itself.

A Wizard of Earthsea is about the growth of Ged to maturity, which is reached in the final confrontation. The Tombs of Atuan is about the growth of Arha to a free being. While Ged had an active, epic growth, Arha’s development is more introspective.

Arha’s growth is a self-development of the self, in the dark isolation from the world, where she discovers herself as an independent being – neither the child her parents had to abandon, nor the blind empty servant of the “Nameless Ones”.

Ged’s presence works as a beacon for Arha. It is interesting to notice that he is not an authoritarian or paternal figure, he does not impose himself as a masculine presence, and sexual attraction does not play a role between him and Arha. He just sheds some light for Arha to grow by herself.

The story of The Tombs of Atuan is a darker, more passive and introspective version of A Wizard of Earthsea, but I would not consider it a feminine/feminist version. Actually, I would not consider any of the stories as related to a specific gender, as they are about the growth of a being to find itself in the World, either by conquering obstacles created by itself or by freeing itself from the prison created by traditions.

The Tombs of Atuan was a Newbery Honor Book in 1972.

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