Title: Worlds Enough & Time
HarperCollins Eos / 576 pages / (January 2003)
I’m not going to kid you on this one; The Fifth Ring is not a “fast read,” as some people would have you believe. It’s far too rich in detail and atmosphere to inhale as a rocket-read. On the other hand, if a wealth of background and landscape is paradise to you, come on in. Mitchell Graham has given us a sprawling, tangible world to play in, and a dramatic quest for a boy to come of age.
Mathew Lewin may have dreamed of a world beyond his own quiet village, but a magical ring and a ruthless tyrant were hardly the reasons he imagined forcing him out. Now, with a power-mad king, repulsive and deadly Orlocks (something familiar about that word…), and war brewing, Mathew and his friends must run for their lives. Can they restore peace to the divided country? Will they survive long enough to make a difference? And how will they learn the truth about the mysterious ring?
In their struggle to stay ahead of the law and to prevent a devastating war, Mathew, Lara, and his young friends will have to commit acts that frighten and horrify them. The more seasoned fighters among them remember the atrocities committed by the Orlocks; they have no illusions about what they are up against. What none of them suspects yet is there part a perfectly ordinary looking ring will play in their plans. Only the ruthless King Duren has an idea of the ring’s importance, and killing is far from the worst thing he will do to retrieve it.
The Fifth Ring does play out on a huge, intricate canvas, but it is the painting underneath that may well be the most intriguing aspect of the story. Alor Satar, Elgaria, and all the other minor kingdoms in this Bronze Age are built on the decimated ruins of a much more advanced civilisation. A civilisation so lost to history and mind that the people living on the verge of the Waste Lands cannot imagine what once was. Whatever was, is no more, and none really knows what they lost or why.
Responsibility, loyalty, and treachery mark Mathew’s passage into manhood. And, just a glimmer of love awaits. It is a testing ground on the grandest scale imaginable. The villains are larger than life, of course, and the “good guys” have far from a spotless record. The battle enjoined will shake this land, bringing out the best in some people and the very worst in others. What represents the “worst” in the Orlocks will churn their stomachs and test their resolve. That goes for both characters and readers.
Fantasy fans will find no shortage of sword, sorcery, gallantry, and malignancy in The Fifth Ring. Follow in the footsteps of a courageous, and complex, band of heroes. Or is it martyrs?