Originally posted 09/10/10 in my meta/review blog
In The Door into Sunset, our leading characters go through many evolutions and “power ups” as their efforts to depose Cillmod come to a head. This book focuses mainly on Freelorn as he tries to find a way to become a true Initiate in the royal magics that protects the country from the Shadow, (and which also ensure that the land doesn’t turn back into wasteland like most of the continent seems to be). We also watch Hasai and Segnbora become Very Important Persons among the Dragons, and Herewiss learn to cope with being the First Man in Centuries with the Blue Flame.
The book opens with Eftgan, the Queen of Darthen getting ready to do her annual crown-forging ceremony. This tradition had been put in place so that ordinary people who had a grievance with the king or queen could confront (or even attack them) directly. Segnbora has a premonition that something might occur, and warns Herewiss and Freelorn about it. They are able to stop the assassins from killing Freelorn or Eftgan, and discover that someone on Cillmod’s side is able to use major sorcery without suffering from a backlash. After Eftgan finishes making her crown, (she is not a jeweler and therefore her crown ends up tilting at a rakish angle) she announces she will be going to war with Cillmod to put Freelorn on the throne, which is greeted with approval by the crowd.
It is decided that Herewiss will go to the Arlen capitol to deliver the declaration of war with Sunspark, while Freelorn sneaks in to try to become a full Initiate (which involves spending some time in Lionhall, and either pass the Initiation or dying) in the royal magics of Arlen. Segnbora meanwhile will be visiting the Dragons and trying to get them to help–Hasai does not think this will be successful, but Segnbora wants to try.
Before any of this can get under way, the Reavers turn up on Eftgan’s doorstep, and for the first time in history, seem to want to talk. Eftgan and Freelorn go out to meet them. She uses her Blue Flame in order to cast a “universal translation” spell and ask them what they want. The first conversation ever goes pretty well since previous attempts were extremely unsuccessful.
It is discovered that the Reavers have a nomadic culture and have a hard time understanding things like “agriculture” and “land ownership.” Their habit of burning down homesteads when taking over territory was because they are primarily herders and hunters. The Reavers are also apparently facing a major family in their own land, and have been trying to move somewhere less horrible, which Freelorn can sympathize with, because he offers a region of his own country that’s too far away and poor in soil for good farming, but has a lot of grassland. The Reavers think this is a good deal but are understandably cautious. They agree to sit on the fence and not take part in the upcoming war, which is also a good thing.
With these discoveries in mind, Freelorn heads off under disguise, and finds out that he is a daddy twice over. Segnbora is expecting, and an old flame of his has a daughter. He also discovers that he is apparently beginning to develop a sixth sense, and the land itself seems to be doing him all kinds of little favors when he asks it nicely. He manages to make it to the city, but guards see through his disguise. Fortunately, he’s able to hide himself using his new found ability.
Segnbora does the meet and greet thing with the Dragons, and the Dragons don’t know what to make of her or Hasai. Especially since Hasai is slowly becoming more physical and Segnbora is becoming less physical. After talking with various Dragons, most of whom are various kinds of freaked because they can remember-ahead and see some pretty scary things that Segnbora might be responsible for, she meets the DragonChief. Dithra is less than impressed with Segnbora, and the feeling is for the most part returned. The DragonChief isn’t interested in Segnbora’s arguments that Dragons should involve themselves a little more in the world, and dismisses her.
Herewiss goes to the Arlen capitol, and meets the usurper Cillmod, who is actually a pretty nice guy. Also a pretty nice guy is Rian, Cillmod’s head sorcerer. However, Rian’s nice guy act is more along the lines of Mr. Morden’s from Babylon 5. Rian is working for The Shadow, and seems to think he knows what he’s doing. He also does his best to make Herewiss worried and unhappy, and even goes so far as to attack him psychically. Sunspark who threatens to burn Rian’s wife and daughter averts his attack; Rian is still human enough to react and his attack falters. (Sunspark later is very upset about this. Not because it made the threat, but because it had learned enough about human emotions to understand that, it could make a threat like that.)
Freelorn’s band (and Herewiss) meet up in the Arlen capitol, their goal to watch Freelorn’s back when he goes into Lionhall. Before they get there however, they get distracted by monsters and an ice elemental that Hasai fries.
Freelorn goes into Lionhall and encounters some of the darker and less pleasant aspects of his personality. He also gets bad touched by a nightmare monster that had been lurking in his dreams for years. He defeats the monster by making it rain indoors and the “monster” turns out to be Héalhra, the White Lion, and founder of his line, and a minor God. (Or rather, a human who briefly had the power of a god.) Héalhra tells him that the rite involves facing your fears (and Him.)
Cillmod turns up, because he wanted to try becoming an Initiate, in hopes that the war would be over if he succeeded. Freelorn tells him no, there’s all ready an Initiate, and they fight. Cillmod tries to strangle Freelorn with the Stave of office, which Freelorn thinks is funny. He leaves with a smart aleck comment to the effect that they can talk about what to use the Stave for later.
There is a battle, and the Shadow manages to cause a great deal of damage, incarnating in a physical form and almost winning the day. Freelorn however manages to incarnate as the White Lion, and fights the Shadow on equal terms, with the help of The Eagle (who is the Darthen god-counterpart). The Shadow is defeated, Freelorn is acknowledged as the king, and he and Cillmod settle their discussion about the Stave when Freelorn offers Cillmod a job.