Ken Schole’s Lamentation is one of the novels I read recently that I most enjoyed. I was very much looking forward to delving into its sequel, Canticle. This is second entry in The Psalms of Isaak was a thoroughly pleasant read, pushing further the storylines introduced in Lamentation an continuing the journeys of the characters were learned to care for in the first novel. More importantly, Canticle sees the peeling back of mysteries of the vast world Scholes created. Scholes is sophomore effort escapes the common lag of sequels and displays a writer that has grown in skill and continues to captivate us with his creativity and imagination.
It is nine months after the end of the previous book. Many noble allies have come to the Ninefold Forest for a Feast in honor of General Rudolfo’s first-born child. Jin Li Tam, his wife and mother of his heir, lies in childbed. as the feast begins, the doors of the hall fly open and invisible assassins begin attacking. All of Rudolfo’s noble guests are slain, including Hanric, the Marsh Queen’s Shadow. And on the Keeper’s Gate, which guards the Named Lands from the Churning Wastes, a strange figure with a message for Petronus, the Hidden Pope. Thus begins the second movement of The Psalms of Isaak, Canticle.
If Lamentation did a lot of hinting at things to come and things past, it’s clear in Canticle that we are only beginning to know anything, and what we do learn is only an infinite part of the whole. Canticle takes all the themes of its predecessor and follows them further to see where they go. We leave for the first time the Named Lands, branching out to get a look at the lands beyond, notably the Churning Wastes, site of past destruction and perhaps the place the holds the greatest mystery. Canticle has added layers of complexity as it digs further into the fabric of its world and history, making it an even more interesting tale than Lamentation (though really they’re the same tale continued over two books).
Canticle has a somewhat darker overtone than Lamentation, with grimmer events and the introduction of blood magicks. Though really everything is relative, seeing as Lamentation was dealing with the direct repercussions of the annihilation of a city, but this novel deals with darker happenings at a more personal level, the suffering of Vlad Li Tam most easily coming to mind. But still, Scholes doesn’t turn to the recently popular “realism”, the dark and gritty kind, a type of text I enjoy, but a style I am glad not to find everywhere. Instead, Scholes uses other means to keep the reader reading. The sheer richness of his storytelling is staggering - I’d be hard pressed to find a series filled with more imagination. His blend of genres continues in Canticle, especially with the introduction of new elements of the plot that still in this second novel continue to hint at bigger things to come.
Rudolfo stands out to me as the best developed character of the series, which is understandable seeing as he is the main character. In Canticle he is coming to terms with the obligations of his new duties as Keeper of the Light, and the situation in the Named Lands is not helping his hand. Though he finds himself the most powerful man in the lands, he’s also restricted by his various responsibilities of Kin-Clave, to his people, his family and to his own conscience. He was greatly affected by the events in Lamentation and those in Canticle continue to shape him in the most interesting of ways. The other characters grow similarly, the second best example being Neb, who has grown from an unsure, traumatized adolescent to a matured young man that is starting to grasp his place in the world and the role he will be called to play. It also helps that he gets to be the one to go off into the Churning Wastes, chasing after an unknown merchoservitor.
Canticle shapes up nicely, maintaining the quality of narrative and prose that readers discovered in Lamentation and pushing things just a little further. If Lamentation was a novel you enjoyed then this sequel will not disappoint. Keeping things going at a fast paced with plenty enough of action, intrigue, exploration and development, Canticle is a novel I can only highly recommend. The anticipated third entry in The Psalms of Isaak, Antiphon, has a publication date coming up in September so be sure to keep a look out for it when the time comes.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 14 and up
Ken Scholes' Website: http://www.kenscholes.com/