Black Jade by David Zindell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Getting all the way through the Ea Cycle is a quest all on its own. So much happens, but in actuality, it's just different aspects of a grand, LONG, seemingly endless adventure, in almost the same way that The Grail Quest was, EXCEPT it keeps pretty much the same adventurers for the entire tale.
The previous book stayed pretty close to home with so much seeming success before it all went to hell, leaving the adventurers guilt-ridden and tetherless -- and so that leads us BACK into (you might guess) the Grail Quest again.
Fortunately, none of this is quite that simple and the full quest is lush and we get to see a lot of great places and people, from mystical masters to vast, deadly deserts to a trip into the heart of the Enemy's nation... all to find the shining healer that is the only one who is truly worthy to wield the full might of the Lightstone, the Grail itself.
All of this was great, but I was particularly enthusiastic about the mild crossovers to Zindell's other series, including the Wild, the ascended beings, the world-creators (singers), and the created immortals. There really aren't all that many true crossovers with the Requiem series, but what we have here is still interesting.
This will never be Requiem, unfortunately. It is, however, like the original Grail legends, a moral as well as a physical quest, demanding the heroes to change their ways and purify their hearts, and this is taken seriously, realistically, in these pages. In that respect, this is a classic retelling that goes above and beyond the original style by also giving us the best bits of epic fantasy with all the magic and worldbuilding. :)
I would rank this book up with the first, with the second and third trailing behind. I'm looking forward to the 5th (and apparently last) book. After all, our enemy has merely been defeated, NOT destroyed. :)
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