Land of the Burning Sands is the second book in the Griffin Mage trilogy by Rachel Neumeier. The first novel is Lord of the Changing Winds.
Gereint has been geas-bound for the past 19 years. To be branded and bound under compulsion of the geas means that Gereint is nothing more than a slave, forced by a magical binding to follow any orders given to him by his master. When the hot desert winds of the griffins sweep over the town of Melentser, burying it under mounds of red sand, Gereint uses the opportunity to try to escape from a life of servitude. However, he doesn’t get far, and after a series of encounters in which his faith in the kindness of humanity is restored, Gereint becomes unwittingly caught up in the war between his own country and the kingdom of the griffins.
During his travels, he meets Tehre, a woman with a genius intellect and penchant for engineering and building, and a curious foreign dignitary named Lord Bertaud, who seems to have some sort of affinity or connection with the griffins. By the time anyone realizes just how dire the situation is with the griffin kingdom, it’s too late, and Gereint must come to terms with the sacrifice he must make for a country that condemned him to slavery so many years ago.
I am so pleased with this sequel. Neumeier really went above and beyond my expectations. Once again I am having trouble writing a decent summary for this book review. The synopsis provided on the back cover of the book is even less interesting, I think, than my sad attempts above. Suffice to say, the plotting and the world that Neumeier has written for her readers is so good that it’s impossible to sum up or describe in a short paragraph.
Land of the Burning Sands started off in a very different direction compared to the first novel in the series. Instead of the young, impressionable, ingenue-type heroine (fairly typical in fantasy fiction) that we had in the first book of the trilogy, we instead have Gereint, a grown man who has endured many hardships and painful experiences. Almost half his life has been spent as a slave; he is no stranger to punishment or humiliation. Gereint’s life is thus in many ways parallel to the current situation of his country, Casmantium, which has recently lost a war agains the griffins and neighboring kingdom Feierabiand. Casmantium has had to concede territory, and things are only continuing to deterioriate.
Gereint’s journey (the plot) and his personality (the characterization) were both completely unpredictable to me, which doesn’t happen to me very often when I read, since I can usually predict a general idea of what’s going to happen in a story, or what kind of character our protagonist will turn out to be. Not so with Burning Sands, an aspect of reading this novel that I really enjoyed. I couldn’t have predicted with any certainty the plot twists and the decisions that Gereint made, and it definitely contributed to the building tension that led up to the climax. Even though it was unpredictable, Neumeier’s story still made sense, something that not all novelists can do. She thoroughly convinced me.
I especially enjoyed the well-formed characters in Land of the Burning Sands. No one was flat or stereotypical, and almost all of them played major parts in the plot. The world building was great–Neumeier does a lot in the traditional fantasy vein (pre-Industrial Revolution type society, magic, Kings, courtly nobility, etc.) but made it her own and I was never bored with her environment. Her brand of magic is also fairly unique, and the way she described it made a lot of sense and helped the continuity of the story.
Additionally, I love Neumeier’s writing style. It’s very unique and different from any other author that I’ve read recently. She just creates a great atmosphere and picture in my head, and I feel like I am right there experiencing the story. To be honest, I thought the plotting of the novel was a little lopsided–it started out fairly slowly, and if it hadn’t been for the perfect way that Neumeier tells the story, I might have been bored with what was happening plot-wise. But she always made it interesting and engrossing.
I am very glad I found this author and I will most definitely continue to follow her career.
How did I get this novel? From my local public library
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, World Building, Sorcery, Magical Creatures
Author Website: http://www.rachelneumeier.com/
Except from Land of the Burning Sands: Read the first chapter here