Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen
including “The Broken Lands”, “The Black Mountains”, and “Ardneh’s World”
ACE 20563-1 558 pages
rating: 3 of 5
The has been on my “to-read” pile for many years. As I try to cut costs and space, I’m reading more from this pile, before deciding whether to keep or donate these books. This is the ACE compilation of the trilogy, published in 1979, paperback, 1980. The price on cover ($2.95) reminds me of a day when I read much more voraciously.
I haven’t read a lot of Saberhagen, I may have read some shorter works – but don’t really remember. My recollection is that I purchased this with the intention of introducing myself to this author, but other works apparently seemed more important at the time.
Allegedly the three original novellas were heavily revised for this compilation. They progress well, but except for background material, stand pretty independently. Overall I enjoyed reading this book. However, the last part seemed intended to tie up loose ends and I was disappointed at the abruptness of the ending.
The world where these stories are set is one of elemental magic, earth,air, fire, water based. This is overlayed onto a distant past that was technological. In addition to basic “good vs evil”, the conflict in these stories occurs when the ancient technology intrudes into the world of magic.
There are three primary characters whose presence permeate the book. The hero, Rolf, begins the story as a farm boy. When his family is destroyed and life overturned, he turns into a warrior for the western “good” side against the evil, Eastern Empire.
The antagonist and secondary hero, Chup, begins as a nobleman, a warrior of the Empire . His fortunes decline as his allegiances waver throughout the book.
The secondary antagonist, Charmian, uses her charms to advance her position in the empire.
A background character, a force against the empire, Ardneh, provides a background influence throughout the stories,. It provides some protection and guidance against the magic of the empire, It leads to ancient technology to help the west in its struggle with the east.
I have to insert this comment on the second story, without revealing too much, that balloons play an important roll.
Overall I enjoyed the stories, especially the first two, and recommend them.
more information on Fred Saberhagen: http://www.berserker.com/
© David B Snyder 2013