If Dark of the Moon
was a difficult book in some ways, Seeker's Mask
is more and worse. For a reader who fell in love with the strong, confident, capable Jame of God Stalk
, this is hard going indeed; here we see a broken Jame, physically and mentally. She's found her people and her brother, and found what their idea of her place is: to become what she is not, to be broken and caged and obedient and, in that it is not any part of her nature to be such, doomed and destined to be a useless failure. The hope of a place and a family and a home is what sustains the orphaned child; she has found them and lost them simultaneously, and her despair is agonizing to witness.
Despair, though, is a place on the road a heroine must follow, where her weaknesses are brought to the forefront and must be overcome. Jame is knocked down so she can be rebuilt as an adult instead of a child, so that she can grow again from a stronger foundation. This has that middle-book feeling; the nadir of hope, the icy midwinter of the soul.
And the days do get longer and warmer, starting about mid-way in the book, and ending up with Jame in a much better, stronger place. Like the previous volume, many seeds are laid for the future here, many mysteries are revealed only to discover bigger, deeper questions behind them. We're introduced to a number of characters that are important to the larger story, and Hodgell's as always over-active imagination can't be kept down; there are so many wonders shown.
Jame also manages a few crowning moments of awesome
here; the comeuppance of Caldane, Lord Caineron, chief among them, although it's also an insight into her terrible power and potential for cruelty.
As always, the visual imagination in me would love to see this in graphic-novel or animated form; it would be stunning.
This book, and series, strongly rewards a careful read. Hodgell is familiar enough with fantasy to cover many of the common tropes and yet present them anew and differently, in a shockingly colorful and detailed setting.