cover image The War Within

The War Within

Stephen R. Donaldson. Berkley, $28 (576p) ISBN 978-0-399-58616-3

This momentous second installment of Donaldson’s Great Gods War epic fantasy series (which is nearly three times the size of 2017’s Seventh Decimate) picks up 20 years after two kingdoms were forcibly allied through a royal wedding. Bifalt of Belleger and Estie of Amika have married and ascended to their thrones, but old prejudices still simmer. Estie, who loves her husband and grieves that he doesn’t love her back, focuses on ruling Amika in a kinder way than her father did and building a road to the Last Repository, where the peace was brokered; she finds out almost too late how much opposition she still has from a surprising source. Many in Belleger are skeptical of Bifalt’s declaration that a fearsome enemy threatens, but they continue to build defenses while closely watching the rise of a strange new church in a land that’s never heard of gods or faith. Magic, subterfuge, and deeper personal stories give this installment real depth and breadth, developing the world as well as the characters. Readers who felt the first book fell short of Donaldson’s past work will be happy to find this a return to form. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Morhaim Literary. (Apr.)