Pros: captivating adventure, well-developed characters, epic fantasy
Cons: no happy ending, challenging pacing
The Bottom Line: A must have set for fantasy lovers
She was alone in the cavern where the sound of water drowned out her thoughts. She couldn't let her mind wander and begin worrying at all that she couldn't remember. It hurt when she did that, and she didn't want it to hurt any more. Alone, speechless in a cavern filled with the sounds of water... that's how the duarroughs found her.
The duarroughs, one of Ravenna's own people, are a sturdy and diligent, if dwindling, race. They have quietly lived beneath the crust of the world all these long years since Ravenna retreated into her fortress. Working desperately to keep the Ancient's workings in good order, the sun-shy duarroughs have resisted the sabotage and brutal attacks of the White Witch and her bloodthirsty minions over the years, reverently maintaining the hidden relics that have kept their world living long after the Ancients abandoned it.
These earthy and clever-fingered people stir feelings of fondness and excitement within the girl, but they also stir her memory. They fuss over the Witch's Pin stuck behind her ear, and argue over what to do with her, but it is easier for her to sink into the oblivion that the painful silver needle demands; not to listen, not question, and above all... not to remember.
Only Ravenna, the last Ancient left on the world they once created, could remove the Witch's curse. Only Ravenna still has the knowledge to free the girl's mind and tongue once more. But Ravenna has not allowed anyone in or out of her city, Crystalglass, in many lifetimes. Is the glowing pearl around her neck and the Witch's animosity enough to open Crystalglass to our foundering heroine? Can even Ravenna reawaken Aeriel to her lost destiny before Aeriel's beloved Irrylath and the White Witch meet in battle?
Are these the last gasping moments of a world spinning out of control within the silence of the void? Divided from her memory by the Witch's cruel magic, only she can heal the Soul of her world... if only she dares to give up everything she is, everyone she loves, and embrace Ravenna's tragic truth.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My Thoughts ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This stunning conclusion to Meredith Ann Pierce's Darkangel trilogy blows away all expectations. Suitable for ages 12 and up, this fantasy epic does not spoon feed us a happy ending, nor does it comfort us over the fate of our heroine or her world. It does enthrall readers though! Aeriel's disjointed and painfully forbidden memory set within a side of her world that we have only briefly glimpsed, makes for a rather tense, uneasy, and laborious beginning that challenges readers. I found my heart racing periodically throughout the first several chapters as I waited for Aeriel to reclaim herself.
The quandary of love drawn between Aeriel, Sabr the jealous Bandit Queen, the White Witch and Irrylath grows even more complex. Eoduin and her starry sisters continue to help Aeriel, but also pull on her attention and sense of duty as if she were a rope stretched between them, Irrylath and Ravenna's plans. Talb, the little mage of Downwending, and his duarrough relatives have their own expectations of young Aeriel. As if she didn't have enough people demanding important commitments from her, Ravenna now joins the ranks as one more person with a finger in the pie of Aeriel's fate.
The Lons have all been gathered and returned to their rightful forms. People from all of Oceanus have assembled under the banners of Prince Irrylath, his mother, brothers and his lovely lethal cousin, Sabr, to march against the forces of the dreaded White Witch. The Witch has slowly been stripping Oceanus of its water and energy to power her own goals, but now she is being offered a new choice. Accept Ravenna's gift, carried by Aeriel, or be destroyed!
An exciting adventure, Pearl is magically woven into an unforgettable fantasy tapestry to delight and amaze readers. Like the Princess Bride, The Pearl of the Soul of the World has a little bit of everything, "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." Everything except a happy ending. True to life, Pierce reminds us here that even when we do everything right, everything we should or are destined to... it doesn't mean we will achieve our own heart's desire. What we want and what we need are all too often entirely different things.
Personally, my biggest problem with this book is the horrendously clunky title! Fitting, but not terribly melodic or inviting. The pacing can be challenging for some readers, as can the large cast of characters. Aeriel is a truly good person who consistently chooses to do what is right or necessary, rather than what she secretly desires. She manages to retain an innocence, a kind and loving heart even after the many trials she has experienced in her life. I find that inspiring.
Pierce has mentioned plans to continue this tale through Irrylath's eyes. "Anybody who considers that a satisfying ending is nuts. Take heart! I intend to shift focus to Irrylath and show him as a very human character coming to grips with a life of duty, devoid of personal satisfaction or love. No longer overshadowed by Aerial, Irrylath must forgive himself for his crimes as a darkangel, regain his wings and discover the secret that will set both him and Aerial free. Aerial will learn the high personal cost of surrendering herself, however nobly, to Ravenna's planetary rescue plan."
"Here end for a time the adventures of Aerial. The adventures of Irrylath have only begun" was how Pierce would have liked to end this book. Her poignantly flavored, profoundly moving and intriguing work of fantasy has captured the hearts and imaginations of readers everywhere. Pierce brings a very human sense of mortality and spiritual inspiration to this marvelously spun fantasy; giving readers both roots and wings. Having equipped us so well for further exploration, I eagerly await a new addition to the tragically romantic, heart-pounding, magical tale of Aeriel and Irrylath.
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