The Tenth Power: Book III in the Chanters of Tremaris Series
by Kate Constable
Published by Allen and Unwin
271 pages, 2005
A Final Chapter
Reviewed by Sue Bursztynski
With this novel, the Chanters of Tremaris trilogy that Kate Constable began with The Singer of All Songs, comes to a close.
Heroine Calwyn, brought up by priestesses in the land of Antaris, had been well on her way to becoming the prophesied "Singer of All Songs:" the person who is capable of using all nine forms of magic in a world where nobody knows more than one and magic is on the way out anyway.
In the second book in the series, The Waterless Sea, Calwyn had used up all her magic power to save a land and now has to rely on her young friend Mica who can perform chantments of wind and fire. As the novel begins, Calwyn and her companions are traveling back to Antaris, where she hopes to take refuge. When they get there, they find disaster: the seasons are crazy, there's an alarming new disease that only affects chanters and is ploughing its way through the priestesses and there's a nasty new High Priestess, running things her way.
Samis, the villain who had hoped to become the Singer of All Songs himself, had raided Antaris and caused much of the current trouble. But Samis is dead ... or is he? And what about that hunk Darrow? He had become a ruler in the land Calwyn freed in The Waterless Sea. Is there a chance of romance between him and Calwyn, or will he be dead before she can carry out her mission and find out about this tenth magic power? And who is to teach Calwyn what she needs to know in order to fulfill her destiny as the Singer of All Songs? The answer to this last question is surprising. Likewise, there are some unusual explanations about the origins of the dead city of Spareth, where Samis had supposedly died. And be warned, someone dies in this novel, uselessly and by accident.
There is a fine line, these days, between young adult and adult fiction. Many novels intended for those in their late teens tend to be read by bright younger readers, while the young adults, in my experience as a school librarian, read adult fiction. This trilogy was aimed at the young adult market, and the heroine develops, finds out who she is and does many things that concern teenagers, but at the same time, you do tend to forget how young she and her friends are. Really, it's only the length of each individual volume which reminds you that this is not an adult series.
Unlike some of the fat fantasy "quest" trilogies out there, this one has characters who are likable, believable and develop. Admittedly, the reader knows from the first few pages of the first novel that Calwyn and Darrow will become an item, but one isn't always quite sure what is going on in his head or whether he will suddenly change for the worse.
Even the villain, Samis, is capable of surprising you. He isn't the standard Dark Lord. Though he was a prince, he doesn't have a retinue of lackeys to call fools and smack down. He is enough of a danger by himself and he isn't always easy to resist. He had, after all, at one time been Darrow's best friend, a friendship whose end Samis still regrets deeply. His eventual fate leaves a question mark. The trilogy is finished, but will he come back in another series, perhaps?
Certainly, this universe could be used again. There are entire countries we have not explored in this world. The land of Gellan, for example, appears briefly. Magic is still used there, but culturally, its people are only interested in business and one never says thank you, because only losers do that. But after they have rescued Darrow from imprisonment, the characters are on their way elsewhere.
The ends of the main story are tied, however, and you can move on. It has been an enjoyable journey with Kate Constable and it is to be hoped that she will produce many more novels. | June 2005
Sue Bursztynski is a children's and fantasy writer and librarian based in Australia.