After the twofold cliffhanger The Way Into Chaos ended on, I of course had to grab the second volume right away and dig into it. The Way Into Magic continues seamlessly where the previous volume left off – so much so, in fact, that it reads more than the second part of a single novel than the second novel in a trilogy.
Pretty much everything I said about the first installment of The Great Way applies to this second one as well: it ticks all of the important Epic Fantasy boxes while at the same time being unusually lean and taut for that genre, combining a realistic setting with heroic characters. The point of view characters are the same, too: Treygar the soldier and Cazia the mage. I assume that their paths will eventually intersect again, but for the whole of The Way Into Magic they are separate, Treygar attempting to fulfill the promise he gave his king, Cazia trying to find out more about the Blessing that keeps on spreading across the former Empire. None of them are particularly successful, and it has to be said that the plot of the trilogy does not get very much advanced in this novel.
Which does not mean that nothing is happening – in fact, there is quite a lot going on, it’s just that most of it does not appear to be of much consequence in the grand scheme of things (and I should add that of course volume three might still show all of this to have been very relevant). It’s no less gripping for that, however, Cazia’s thread in particular (which takes up most of the novel for a reason) is very exciting, taking her into the far corners of the continent where she (and the reader) discover various new races and new cultures. Connolly is really pulling out all the stops there and I can just imagine cackling with glee while presenting a plethora of new people and places without a single infodump. The readers never get told more than the protagonists know, and they discover the world along with Cazia and Treygar – it’s not quite the level of throw-away world-building you find in Roger Zelazny (who this volume of the novel is dedicated to) or Steven Brust but it’s all very deftly done.
While Cazia and Treygar are travelling, the mystery thickens – what is the Blessing and who is behind it? what happened to the Evening People, and who are they, anyway? and how does magic tie into all of this? Connolly drops a lot of hints and foreshadowing without being too obvious about it – another thing he is quite adept at.
Although the cliffhanger this time is not as bad as the ones a the end of the first volume, I’m actually regretting I did not wait with getting these novels until the third volume of the trilogy has come out so that I could have read them all in one go. Now I have to wait two weeks for The Way Into Darkness…