Things are moving fast in The Psalms of Isaak. Antiphon is the third book in this engaging series and its arrival means that we are officially over the half-way point towards the fifth and final volume of the series. If Lamentation (review here) and Canticle (review here) had left you any doubt about Ken Scholes’ talent then Antiphon will surely dispel all uncertainties. This gripping volume takes the Named Lands and the characters who people it further down familiar paths and in many cases down new ones, resulting in a very strong continuation of what has surely become one of the best ongoing fantasy series of the day.
The Ancient past is not dead. The hands of the Wizard Kings still reach out to challenge the Androfrancine Order, to regain control of the magick and technology that the monks sought to understand and claim for their own.
Nebios, the boy who watched the destruction of the city of Windwir, now runs the cast deserts of the world, far from his beloved Marsh Queen. He seeks the Hidden Library and his own destiny, but is being hunted by strange women warriors. His dreams are invaded by warnings from his dead father.
Jin Li Tam, queen of the Ninefold Forest, guards her son as best she can against both murderous threats and the usurper queen and her evangelists. They bring a message: her son, Jakob, is the Child of Promise of their gospel, and the Crimson Empress is on her way.
And in hidden places the remnants of the Androfrancine order formulate their response to the song pouring out of a silver crescent that was found in the Wastes.
And so the plot thickens, as they say. It’s true that the first two novels in the series did quite a bit of hinting at things to come - as the initial volumes of a series are wont to do - and yet it was hard to conceive where and to what lengths Antiphon was going to go. At this point in the series it is difficult to comment without going too much into detail but let’s just say that Scholes takes the reader down plots and side plots that will twists and turn and amaze to even the most hungered reader’s content.
Slowly but surely details about the plot’s central mystery - which is to say what exactly is going on - are trickling through and it is building pace as it goes. For perhaps the first time since the beginning of the series it is becoming conceivable to perceive the powers at work in the Named Lands and beyond, though I have no doubt that Scholes will somehow make me want to take back that statement in Requiem. At the same time as things are becoming clearer, added layers of plot and mystery work actively to cloud things up even more, or, in other words, make things that bit more interesting.
Like its predecessors, Antiphon continues to be bolstered by its vast and varied cast of characters. Though I worry that too many view points for too long can eventually harm a story, up to now Scholes has shown deft skill in keeping things in check. In this volume that characters continue to be put to the test and struggle on to decipher the meaning of events and their given role in them. As always, I found my interest in certain characters peaking while in others it was at a lower levels than before.
Some characters, though, persist to stand out. It’s really quite amazing to look back and see how far characters such as Neb have come since Lamentation and then to think that Antiphon is barely the half-way point. That in itself can be taken as evidence of a great series.
Antiphon is a successful sequel and very good novel which will not in the least disappoint fans of the first to volumes of the Psalms of Isaak. Ken Scholes proves once more that he is a writer to be aware of and that his series especially deserves readers’ attention. Their is very little yet known about the fourth and penultimate entry into the Psalms of Isaak, Requiem, but I will be sure to keep you posted as information begins to appear.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 14 and up
Ken Scholes' Website: http://www.kenscholes.com/