This is the 6th instalment of the Chronicles of Alsea series and one of the best, which says a great deal given they all rate five stars. While it is a strong part of the series it can be read as a stand-alone because of the slight ‘separateness’ of the storyline. But if you read this first you are going to want to go back and read 1-5; they are just too good to miss.
Outcaste finds 10-year-old Rahel dreaming of becoming a warrior, reading all the books she can find, and longing to be allowed to start training. By 15 she is even more set in her path when her merchant father and crafter mother announce they are inscribing her as a merchant early to prevent her from following her ‘unrealistic’ dreams. Like any determined teenager she leaves like a thief in the night, setting out for Whitesun and a very uncertain future.
Surviving the first few ninedays by luck more than good judgement she settles into the life of an outcaste, literally a non-person who does not have the rights or support of a caste house, and must live by low paid day work, quick wits and strength of character alone. Along with the friends she begins to make she must forge a way to survive until she can challenge for the right to join the Warriors at 18.
Rahel is a brilliant lead character. Fletcher Delancy does her usual amazing job of building a character from the inside-out, only this time we get to see the child become the woman, live literally every step of the journey into adulthood, and watch the person evolve and emerge from the childish hopes and dreams. Flawed despite her honest and honourable nature Rahel is a classic hero, who must fall from grace and risk everything to claw her way back, finding her true self in the process.
The world-building and descriptive scene building in this series is outstanding, some of the best there is, the people, places and deep emotional sense of continuity shows the hand of a truly great fantasy writer. The secondary characters alone rate 5-star. You simply get lost in the alternate reality and forget it’s a book – a story – it just feels so real.
As the plot progresses we move from the isolated and relatively insular life of a teenage runaway into the larger world and revisit many of the major events of the first 5 novels, but from a refreshingly alternate viewpoint, bringing in the major players who have formed the core of the overall saga and filling in details we didn’t even know we were missing. I have to admit I had my doubts about the story arc, I was really concerned with where Rahel was going, her behaviour becoming increasing distant from the woman we had watched grow into the honourable warrior, but Delancey flipped it round in expert style and created a heroic saga of epic proportions, the rise, the fall and the rebirth. I should have known better given the section titles.
Overall, just outstanding. Excellent writing and editing, top class storytelling and a wonderful addition to an already top-notch series. I can’t wait for book 7.
Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.
(publisher review copy received)
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.