R.A. Denny. Captives. (Mud, Rocks, and Trees, Book 3). 2017. See here to buy the book.
Captives is the third volume of R.A. Denny’s fantasy series, “Mud, Rocks, and Trees.” Emperor Zoltov is the despotic ruler of Tzoladia. There is a prophecy that three characters believe is relevant to them: that they will meet each other in Tzoladia, each with a significant seal, and this will precipitate a revolution against Zoltov.
Let’s catch up with our characters, without giving away too many spoilers!
Amanki: Amanki is now in Tzoladia. Although Amanki was raised in humble circumstances, he is actually of royal lineage. He has one of the seals. He meets with the Society of the World, a group of elders who are worshipers of the controversial high god, Adon, the god of people who are monotheistic. Some of the elders deliberate about whether they are interpreting the prophecy correctly, and Amanki struggles with his role and destiny.
Brina: At the beginning of this book, Brina and her young friend, Oaken, are about to be sold as slaves. A familiar face, Metlan, persuades his uncle, the high-ranking Tzoladian general Zaheil, to purchase them.
Metlan: Metlan was in the preceding book. He is a Samalitan, or a cat-rider, a warrior who rides a lion in service to Zoltov. In the previous book, he was a captive of Brina’s group, and he had a wry, flirtatious personality. He helps Brina for a while only to abandon Brina and Oaken at the last minute in a fit of self-preservation. We learn more about Metlan in this third volume, as Metlan is reunited with Brina and Oaken. Metlan is the son (or so he believes) of King Maltan of the Samalitans. His mother was Tzoladian, and she married Maltan in order to cement an alliance between Tzoladians and the Samalitans. Metlan lost his mother when he was very young, but he remembers the stories that she told him. Metlan looks somewhat like Amanki, so there is a question of whether he, too, is of Tzoladian royal lineage.
Tuka: In the preceding book, Tuka gets into a conflict with Telepinus, a drug-dealer. People who are supposed to guard hibernating women and children are instead cutting off the hibernating people’s hands, as part of Telepinus’ drug trade. At the beginning of this book, Tuka’s brother Moshoi is missing and presumed to be dead, and Tuka is healing in a sacred pool after a conflict. He is conscripted into the army of the Tzoladians, where he is given a mission to find a mole who seeks to undermine Zoltov. Tuka must unite with Amanki and Brina.
This book was helpful in that it concisely summarized events of the previous books, in places. It was also intriguing in that it got into politics and geo-politics. In terms of politics, there is intrigue against Zoltov, as Zoltov is seen to be unstable and tries to hold on to his legitimacy with anything he can. Zoltov has a dream and decides to invade Karso, a land that has the ousted Tzoladian ruling class that lost in the power-struggle with Zoltov. It refuses to pay tribute to Tzoladia, but some question whether war is necessary, as Tzoladia and Karso have a good trading relationship. Another interesting aspect of the book was its description of the characters’ mythological-religious beliefs that influenced and undergirded the constitutions of their societies and cultures.
I read a few pages each day but did not entirely know how the book fit together until I looked over it again just now. That was when the book came alive to me. There is not much, at least in this book, in terms of action, but there are competing political and geo-political interests, a sense of mystery, and characters who wrestle with their own complex feelings.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. My review is honest!