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Seventh Decimate: The Great God's War
Publisher: Berkley Books

Stephen R. Donaldson begins his new series, The Great God's War with Seventh Decimate. In this book, we find that the countries of Belleger and Amika were fairly comparable, situated side by side and, beyond that, isolated from any others by sea, mountains, and a vast, inhospitable desert. Thus it should be no surprise that there was some disagreement at some point, which turned into an "us-versus-them" war that lasted as long as anyone could remember over some grievance everyone has forgotten. The fact that there were sorcerers on both sides of this war meant that the war could be more brutal, more gruesome and, in the eyes of Prince Bifalt, the eldest son of the king of Belleger, dishonorable. To him, the fact that someone could have the ability to electrocute or incinerate a group of foes from a safe distance - all because of an accident of birth - was unfair and dishonorable. He came to see all sorcery as reprehensible and, at best, an unhappy necessity, as the technologies that had been developed in Belleger depended in part on sorcerous techniques. For example, Belleger has developed rifles with ammunition clips, allowing for rapid reload, while Amika has been unable to produce guns more advanced than a blunderbuss. However, even the Bellegerians can't produce strong enough barrels to craft these rifles without the Decimate of Fire, a sorcerous fire that can burn at extremely high temperatures without fuel.

When Belleger discovers that it no longer has the gift of sorcery available to it, not only do they realize that Amika has a severe advantage over them, but even their standard day-to-day activities are adversely effected. Without magic, processes they've come to depend on will not work. And, then, there are also the rifles. The one advantage Belleger had against Amika was their rifles, but they have too few and, without the Decimate of Fire, are unable to make more.

After discussion, it is determined that there is a Decimate beyond the six commonly known ones; a Seventh Decimate, which can prevent sorcerers from being able to use their abilities. Amika must have used the Seventh Decimate against Belleger, robbing them of all magic. Fearing that Amika's next attack could be their final blow against Belleger, Prince Bifalt is sent, along with a small party, to seek out a mysterious sorcerous library believed to exist in the wastelands of the desert. Prince Bifalt would do anything for his country, but he has misgivings about his quest, in part because he has a secret. He has been magically saved from certain death on the battlefield, after which a voice in his head asked, "Are you ready?" For what, he does not know, but he fears that he might be used against Belleger if he isn't careful. As he undertakes his quest, he will discover the world is much larger than he ever imagined and he'll have to come to terms with that.

While I do, wholeheartedly, agree that this book sets the story up to be continued in the next book, I don't feel that excuses the book from being a good, standalone story. Instead, I found Prince Bifalt to be generally unlikable and his closed-mindedness and shortsightedness to be difficult to cope with. He comes across as a very two-dimensional character throughout the book and his behavior at the very end of the book seems less like the result of gradual character development, throughout, and more like a change to the character that was imposed onto the story to set up the desired premise for the next book. The adventure, itself, is interesting, as are the different characters they meet along the way, but Prince Bifalt almost seems to strive to be irredeemable.

Seventh Decimate feels like an introduction to a series and not much more. If you're not completely sold, I don't blame you. I would suggest waiting to see how the next book fares before investing in the series.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins
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