Tigrallef, having saved Gil, destroyed its divine icon, and escaped from unhappy marriage, has spent twenty years trying to get rid of the supernatural force that shares his body (and that he calls ‘the Pain’). At last, having run short of leads, he and his companions head back to Gil. There, things get worse – the new rulers of Gil capture them all, and the Pain is getting worse and worse.
All good things must end. The Gil trilogy is one of those good things. Unfortunately, the persistently high quality of the first two books also slows slightly in this final installment. Still very enjoyable, with a couple of flaws that could have been polished away.
While books one and two were narrated by Tigrallef himself, the third is told by his son Verolef. Tig is presumably too preoccupied by fighting the Pain to offer a consistent, coherent view, and the distance provides Bradely a way to keep plot elements secret. It’s disappointing, though, that in what’s been a largely male-focused series, she didn’t take the opportunity to pick Tig’s daughter or lover, either of whom could have served well.
For most of the book, Bradley stays close to the approach and standard she hewed to in the first two books. A few motifs begin to grate, however – I lost count of the times Verolef, watching Tig, told us ‘If I’d only known what it meant’. He didn’t, and we don’t. A few times would be fine – it fits the tone – but here it seems as if every chapter or two we get anothe reminder that something is going on beneath the surface. Unfortunately, we’re not given the information we’d need to figure it out for ourselves. In other words, a running reminder that we’re under-informed. It grates.
The trilogy is largely about the people, not the magic. However, when a book is focused so closely on the interrelationship of the two, you have to give the magic its due. Bradley provides a decent explanation of the ancient source of the Pain and the mysteries we’ve observed over the course of the series – but she compresses it all into a few rushed pages. It’s all there, but I strongly wish she’d taken another chapter or so, instead of hurrying through the resolution. It feels more like an outline than a fully-fleshed finale.
That said, the Gil trilogy, including this final book, stands well above the bulk of heroic fantasy, with its polish, humor, and emphasis on human, likable characters. The whole trilogy is well worth picking up and enjoying, especially since Bradley suggests that, after a long wait, there’s more of it to come.