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The Seven Citadels by Geraldine Harris

Review by Mike

Prince of the Godborn
The Children of the Wind
The Dead Kingdom
The Seventh Gate

Young adult fantasy.


The Book of the Emperors: Chronicles

And in the morning of the world, Zeldin took his son by the hand and led him to the summit of a high mountain. As Mikeld-lo-Taan looked down on the wide lands and bright rivers of Galkis, Zeldin said: "All that you behold, from the mountains of the north to the jungles of the south, from the deserts of the east to the seas of the west, shall be a Kingdom to you and to your heirs for ever." Then Mikeld-lo-Taan, first Emperor of Galkis, knelt before his father and swore to build him there a temple.

Now, many centuries later, Galkis is threatened by ruthless enemies coming both from the north and the south, while the royal family, descendants of the god Zeldin, has degenerated into a bunch of fops, cowards, madmen and evil schemers that do their best to ignore the world outside their country while back-stabbing each other. All but a very few who is fighting a losing battle. The only hope left lies in an ancient legend about an imprisoned saviour, that only a member of the royal family can set free. But first he has to gain the keys to the prison from the seven most powerful sorcerers alive.

The world is a pretty standard fantasy one with technology on a medieval level and magical influence, though the magic does not play an important role in day-to-day life. The quest for the keys takes us all over the continent of Zindar, through countries with vastly different cultures – eastern, western, religious, atheistic, you name it. This is a bit strange, since all the countries originated from the same set of immigrants long ago. And there is something excessive about how every people has to be very different from the others in at least some way. It kind of reminded me of Eddings’s rough, quick-and-dirty set-up in The Belgariad. Still, some of them have a lot of charm and that makes up for the less well-developed ones.

At the heart of the story is Kerish-lo-Taan, the youngest son of the Emperor of Galkis and the person who is charged with the mission to find the saviour. Kerish is an intelligent and well-educated young man with the latent psychic powers of the Godborn, but also spoilt, hot-headed and clueless when it comes to things like travelling all over the known world. Luckily his half-brother Forollkin, a trained soldier and a very practical man, accompanies him on his travels. They are both in their late teens when it all begins, and the story is as much about them growing up as finding a way to save their country.

Except these two majors, there are a number of other memorable characters. The most important and intriguing of them is Gidjabolgo, a very bitter man that is put in the charge of Kerish and Forollkin at an early stage of their journey. He has no respect for anything, least of all a prince of Galkis, and is the source of a lot of friction between other characters. When I first read these books back in my teens I remember muttering at him, shaking my head at him and laughing at him.

This series is nothing for people that require Jordan-like plot development. It is the most basic fantasy set-up of them all. We have a country threatened by powerful forces, and a young man that has to undertake a long, arduous quest to find the only weapon to defeat the enemies, against all odds. And in the process he becomes a great hero. What makes this story different from others is that he doesn’t have to fight his way through trouble with a sword or fancy magic, or at least not very often. Instead his weapons are his intelligence and psychic powers that make him able to find ways to persuade people to help him.

As mentioned previously, I read this series when I was young and I absolutely loved it. When I reread it a year ago I could quite clearly see the flaws that had passed me by the first time, but I still have to say it is a very nice story for those of us that will never completely grow up. :-)

Old story often equals out of print, and this case is no exception. A quick look at amazon.co.uk revealed that only the last two volumes are easy to come by.

During my research for this review (which I did almost a year ago…) I came across a curious fact that made my jaw drop down to my bellybutton. Apparently there exists an epilogue to the story that never got published except in the Spanish (!) translation. The original publisher decided to omit it for reasons that are beyond me. At least it explains why the end always seemed very abrupt to me. Anyway, it is accessible online at Jeremy Marshall’s site about Geraldine Harris, so for those of you who have read this series and wonder how it really ended go to Seven Citadels Epilogue.

For old times sake I can give The Seven Citadels no less than four well-polished, powerful amulets.

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