Review: Ken Scholes’ Antiphon

When I discovered Ken Scholes’ Lamentation, it was on a TOR ad inside the front cover of an issue of The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy last fall. Being a man of faith, the title immediately caught my eye. But it was when I saw Orson Scott Card’s recommendation that I knew I had to read it. Card wrote: “This is the golden age of fantasy, with a dozen masters doing their best work. Then along comes Ken Scholes, with his amazing clarity, power, and invention, and shows us all how it’s done.” That was enough for me. I love Card’s books, loved Scholes’ title, so I ordered the book.

What a delight awaited me. I devoured Lamentation in just over a week, reading it as fast as my eyes and mind could handle. Scholes’ books are rich, full of emotion, detail, mystery, and questions which often await answers even when the book is done. It’s a lot to process, so sometimes it may take the reader’s mind a while to wrap around it and move along. Sometimes this can make the pace feel slow or the page count seem slight, but as you persevere, you’ll find yourself more and more compelled, reading faster and faster until a lightning burst at the end.

After Lamentation, I quickly ordered Canticle and read it almost as quickly. The second in a series of five books which comprise The Psalms Of Isaak, Canticle expanded on both the characters and themes of Lamentation, taking the plot and suspense to new heights.

The gist of the story is that of survivors of a holocaust, the destruction of a city. Their society already survived a cataclysm in what is now the Charred Wastes on the edge of their current home, the Named Lands, but now they face yet another in their midst.

With the destruction of the city, a library containing the treasure of all their known knowledge was destroyed. So now, having discovered metal men who helped store the libraries knowledge and carry it in their memories, the king of a northern territory known as the Ninefold Forests is assembling a new library as the data in the metal men’s memories is transcribed bit by bit into new books.

In the meanwhile, the ancient political machinations of others have set in motion new conflicts–conflicts between the surviving territories and their leaders, conflicts in philosophy, and conflicts in how to solve the issues they all now face.

Antiphon, which releases from TOR on September 14th, continues the saga of those people. Unlike many authors, Scholes doesn’t overwhelm us with details of his world. He gives us just enough to paint a picture, then lets the rest unfold naturally through dialogue and the characters’ thoughts. Full of action, multiple storylines which intersect and separate again, and full of surprising new twists and turns with every chapter, each of these books builds on the others, taking us deeper and deeper into understanding, while at the same time leading us deeper and deeper toward a sense of impending doom and major confrontation.

This is epic fantasy at its finest and truly a must read for every fantasy fan. From the drama of relationships and romances to the clash of religious views and philosophies, Scholes has built a complex, diverse world populated with real people who have something to teach as well as learn.

If you haven’t read these books, you’re missing out, and I highly recommend adding them to your reading list. With each release, I wait with more and more anticipation for the next book. Why can’t Ken Scholes just write faster? I ask myself, and you will too once you’ve discovered the amazing story and world that is The Palms of Isaak.

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