Beyond The Hanging Wall

Strange Horizons: Beyond The Hanging Wall

beyond-the-hanging-wall-us-editionMines, Magic, and Monarchy: Sara Douglass’s Beyond the Hanging Wall

Set in Douglass’s Wayfarer universe, this is a tale of a power struggle in the kingdom of Escator which leads to the teenaged heir’s supposed demise. But what only a few know — including the man who usurped the throne — is that the death was faked.

What makes this novel worth reading, despite the too-light editorial hand, is that Douglass has devised a world where healing and magic have their prices, kings are made by trial and not only by birthright, and characters possess enough cultural and individual diversity that they are not immediately known or understood by all others. Douglass sets up an interestingly complex magic system that exhibits some actual thought beyond the templates used in cookie-cutter fantasy novels. Maximilian’s reluctance to leave the world of the Veins, the only reality he’s known since boyhood, is a very plausible and human element of his story. There’s not much blood and thunder here; this is a more thoughtful tale.

This book has faults. Editorial work should have been concentrated in the first 50 pages, which is where Douglass repeats certain phrases too often and too close together.

Theses details chip away at that all-important suspension of disbelief required to immerse oneself in fantasy worlds; chip too much away and that little bridge collapses. This novel doesn’t quite do that, but the little gaps make the mind itch, just a bit.

The fact that this is a stand-alone fantasy novel is worth noting all on its own. Such novels are rarities nowadays, since multi-volume fantasy series continue to sell well despite critical name-calling (before it got to be more than three books in a series, it was called committing trilogy — interesting connotations there). While Beyond the Hanging Wall has some defects, it also has an involving story and characters who draw the reader into Douglass’s vividly constructed Wayfarer world.

©2004 J.G. Stinson / Strange Horizons. To read the full review on the Strange Horizons website please click on this link.

Anniki’s Bookcase: Beyond The Hanging Wall

beyond_the_hanging_wall_aus-rereleaseDeep beneath the seas of Escator lie the Veins – rich gloam mines worked by men sentenced to die in the darkness.

Garth Baxtor, an apprentice physician, accompanies his father on Joseph′s annual journey to the Veins to tend the barely remembered miners. He knows that these doomed men have experienced unimaginable despair and pain, but nothing could prepare him for what he encounters.In the dark tunnels of the mines, Garth discovers a dangerous secret when he heals a desolate criminal with a mysterious mark on his arm. Is it truly possible that the answer to Escator′s greatest mystery is hidden beneath the hanging wall? Could the fate of the lost Prince Maximilian finally be discovered?

The “hanging wall” is a miner’s reference to the ceiling of a horizontal shaft – the wall that hangs above them. The incomparable Sara Douglass heard this phrase during visits to the Central Deborah Gold Mine in Bendigo, and it formed the basis to Beyond the Hanging Wall.

While Escator inhabits the same world as that of the Axis Trilogy, the Wayfarer Redemption or Darkglass Mountain, and is tied to that last trilogy, this is a stand-alone novel. It is not a sweeping saga of war and upheaval, of events and changes on a grand scale. It is a simple story of a lost prince and the party that search for him, of one boy’s growth into manhood and another man’s search for his identity. This is an intimate story, and by far my favourite of her books.

©2013 Anniki / Anniki’s Bookcase. To read the full review on the Anniki’s Bookcase website please click on this link.