For readers joining us late, confused why the cover says the author is Paula Brandon but this review credits the book to Volsky, Brandon was a pen-name forced on the author, just one of many methods used by Spectra to undermine sales.
2012’s The Wanderers is the third and final volume in Paula Volsky’s The Veiled Isles trilogy . At the end of volume two, things were not going well for our cast of characters:
- the world was on the brink of a vast magical cataclysm;
- Magnifico Aureste Belandor had just, for reasons that seemed sensible at the time, murdered Vinz Corvestri, one of the handful of adepts on whose shoulders the fate of the world rested;
- Aureste’s daughter Jianna Belandor was fleeing her malevolent husband Onartino, dodging him through the streets of occupied Vitrisi;
- Jianna’s one true love Falaste Rione was waiting execution for his part in the assassination of Vitrisi’s Taerleezi governor.
It gets worse.
From Aureste’s point of view, everything is fine. He has killed Vinz (in self-defense, of course) and Vinz’s wife Sonnetia is a widow and available for immediate consumption. She is even at hand, having joined the same expedition on which Aureste and Vinz had embarked. There is a hitch. Vinzille, Vinz’s son, is also on the expedition and is taking his father’s death very badly
Meanwhile, back in occupied Vitrisi, Jianna has eluded Onartino (at least for the moment), giving her time to come up with a plan to rescue Rione, a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel. Unfortunately, the plan requires Jianna to make certain accommodations with the Resistance that effectively make her a part of the highly illegal Resistance . Even more unfortunately, there is a last-minute complication in the form of Onartino , who catches Jianna on the way out of the prison with her gang of confederates and Rione. Rione ends up back into prison, this time accompanied by his doting lover. And they don’t even get to share a cell.
While all this is going on, the Other, the vast, inhuman intellect behind the coming calamity, is hard at work mentally manipulating the expedition of adepts so that they will turn on each other rather than cooperating to protect the current natural laws. The dead walk again as thralls of the Other. Here and there, pockets of unnatural law manifest, harbingers of what is to come.
And thanks to Aureste and Vinz’s inability to put their personal differences aside long enough to save the world, the adepts are now one talented arcanist short of the necessary number.
In the last review, I mentioned that I was skipping over the looming slave uprising. I had expected said uprising to figure largely in the concluding volume. I was wrong. While the oppressed Sishmindri’s struggle to be free does take up a certain number of pages in book three, it’s really treated as more of a distraction for the Taerleezi rather than a major plot thread on its own. I was also a little disappointed that the shortage of adepts wasn’t addressed by recruiting a Sishmindri adept. I’d even settle for a significant thread from the point of view of a specific Sishmindri, rather than the drone’s-eye point of view we actually get. Ah, well. I can console myself by imagining that the Sishmindri had their own parallel quest that didn’t make it onto the pages because the amphibians were far too sensible to be the focus of interesting plots.
Volsky does a nice job of arranging for everything to head hellwards, but stop, teetering, at the very edge. There is still some faint hope that the protagonists (or the subset who manage to live that long) will managed to eke some sort of victory out of the shambles. I regret to inform readers that this faint hope doesn’t mean that every sympathetic character makes it to the end of the book. It certainly doesn’t mean that true love is a free ticket to survival or a guarantee of a last-minute rescue.
Another observation re the ending: various characters are given a chance to get back at those who have wronged them, but decide that vengeance is beneath them. Other characters admit that their antagonists weren’t all bad, only mostly bad. It would be nice to think that this means that this society is going to turn its back on vendetta and blood feuds, but I think what’s actually going on here is just personal character growth.
Once again, I am annoyed at how poorly packaged and marketed this book was. This particular volume reveals an issue I hadn’t even considered in discussing the previous installments: the standard spine stickers the local libraries use for shelving genre cover up the title almost as though they had been intended for that purpose. Someone scanning the shelves could very easily miss that this volume was the third in the series. About the only trick Spectra missed for sabotaging this book is coating the pages with a contact poison extracted from rare pufferfish. But that would have been expensive.
Despite being only three years old, this book seems to be very much out of print. Try sources like Amazon, AbeBooks, and Bookfinder, as well as your local libraries.
1: I shouldn’t have to assure readers that the third book in a trilogy is the final book in the trilogy but thanks to the way publishing loves to head back to the well to scrape out one more cup of dust, I do.
2: It’s probably for the best that the Resistance doesn’t know her father is the most notorious collaborator in town.
3: Do NOT, and I cannot emphasize this enough, start humming the shark theme from Jaws every time Onartino makes an appearance.