Book Review

Series Review: The Wars of Vis

I kind of don’t feel like reviewing this series, but it’s Tanith and I kind of want to share my thoughts – so here we are.

I never thought I’d see the day I DNF’d a Tanith, but it has happened. Cue shock and awe. It was a tough decision to make! I’ve read books of hers that were middle-of-the-road and one comes to mind that I didn’t enjoy, but I still finished it. Sadly, I wasn’t enjoying the second book in this series and reminded myself that I don’t have time for books I’m not enjoying (ok, unless I’m hate-reading for the sake of a ranting review), even if they’re by my favorite author!

The Storm Lord by Tanith Lee
My Edition: Paperback – 350 pages – 1976 – DAW

Raldnor is the bastard son of the previous king, raised away from the city by his mother’s people, his lineage unknown. But when he travels to the capital city, all is revealed and he soon meets his half-brother. Rather than fight, Raldnor’s brother invites him into his home and begins to trust him – that is, until a woman comes between them.

I don’t even know how to blurb this book because my eyes were so glazed over by the end that I had no clue what was going on. I was interested, at first, in the world building and the plot. However, the bland characters and convoluted political and religious intrigues lost me by the end.

Raldnor, the lead character, is totally unlikable. But not in the anti-hero way; he’s just an entitled prick. All the women in this book are either evil, sexual objects, or a mix of both. This was surprising coming from Tanith! I’ve encountered this often in vintage sci-fi, but usually from men. It was disappointing to find the stereotypes hold true from a female writer. There are three main love interests for Raldnor, plus a wicked queen type and they’re all basically just sex toys for the men in their lives. There’s rape early on, which seemed like it was there solely for shock-value. The main love interest for Raldnor, Astaris, is literally just beautiful. She has no personality and I’m not sure how they fell in love. In the end (minor spoiler alert!) she actually turns into a statue and there’s no difference between that and when she was alive.

Something compelled me to keep reading, but I’m not sure what. Raldnor succeeds in everything he does and has no likable traits. There’s a really long sea journey and battle and political coup that did nothing for me and I think could have been cut. There’s a weird star that comes around every so often (Zastis, or something) and it makes some of the people of the world really horny? I didn’t see the point of that either. Oh and also the “repressed” and downtrodden race were a people with light skin and bleach blonde hair (despite living in what seemed like a desert or grasslands, so I’d think they’d be tanned) and those in power were “dark skinned” with black hair. I assume Tanith was trying to switch things on their head but it didn’t feel progressive or empowering – especially because the white race takes control of the land in the end.

I kept thinking things would get better or Raldnor would develop some personality traits other than “strong, sexy man” and “chosen one.” I mean, his mother worshipped a snake goddess (who I thought was going to actually appear as a living being in the story and sadly didn’t) and killed his father with some sort of secret sex trick. I expected something cool or intriguing, but the book didn’t deliver.


Anackire by Tanith Lee
My Edition: Paperback – 414 pages – 1983 – DAW – ISBN: 0879978627

“The lowland girl seemed to contain fire. Her hair stirred, flickered, gushed upward, blowing flame in a wind that did not blow. A tower of light shot up the sky, beginning where the girl stood. For half a second there was only light, then it took form. The form it took was Anackire.”

Since I quit reading at about the 50% mark, I couldn’t even begin to blurb this book. I have no clue what happened, because it felt like nothing happened.

You might wonder why I continued with the series, since I didn’t enjoy the first book, like, at all. Well, first, it’s Tanith, so I wanted to give her a shot. Second, the cover has the badass snake goddess on it so I figured she’d actually make an appearance this time and like, totally destroy people. Third, the blurb on the back sounds awesome and made it seem like this would be a more female-driven book, with hopefully some stronger characters.

I was wrong on those last two counts.

I just now realized this book was written 7 years after the first – maybe the series shouldn’t have continued?

There is a helpful recap in the beginning which sums up what happened towards the end of the book and talks a little about the telekinetic powers Raldnor’s people have. I forgot to mention that in the earlier section because it doesn’t really seem to matter in book 1. This recap also says that when the plains people rose up, they used their mind powers to create a big earthquake in the ruling city and raised the goddess. Only, I think they just like, raised a giant statue of her that was buried underground. Also Raldnor conquered the city then took off to find his statue girlfriend and his bastard kid from his seafaring adventure is apparently the ruler now.

Where the first book was about the previous king’s kids, this book seems to be about Raldnor’s kids – he has 3 that I know of. It was disappointing because I didn’t give a damn about Raldnor and I don’t give a damn about his kids.

Again, there’s a rape-esque scene in the beginning, between siblings. It’s one of those “no means yes” situations. Like, I guess it’s not actual rape because the sister did want it, but then later she finds out she’s pregnant (she knows like, immediately, for whatever reason) and kills herself. So then, did she really want it? Was it only shame that drove her to suicide or something more? I don’t know because these characters weren’t compelling enough for me to care.

Oddly enough, those who worship the snake goddess, Anackire, preserved this woman’s body after she died so the baby could be born. I assume this baby ends up being the girl described in the blurb, but I didn’t get far enough to prove that.

The story primarily follows the brother who doinks his sister and one of Raldy’s bastards. Again, neither was likable and the book was mostly just men talking to each other, women remaining sexual objects, and discovering who is a descendant of Raldnor. SNORE. I wanted Anackire, who the book is named after, to rise up and slaughter everyone! Sadly, that didn’t happen before I decided to give up

There was no point in forcing myself to continue, just because I love Tanith. Of course I’m going to keep my copies of this series for my collection, but I won’t be attempting to read them again and I certainly won’t recommend them.


The White Serpent by Tanith Lee
My Edition: Paperback – 396 pages – 1988 – DAW – ISBN: 0886772672

This book seems to be about a girl who is one of the “magical Amanackire race” (I assume it means she can speak to others of her kind telekinetically, because I didn’t see a hint of any other powers) who is a “pure white albino” with terrifying powers – she can grant life, defy death and enchant or destroy men. It’s also about a warrior boy who was sold into slavery at a young age and later becomes one of the finest warriors and charioteers in the land. But the spell of the white witch (Our Heroine, I assume) bewitches him and leads him to challenge “the mightiest of mortals and immortals” and to go on a quest for the legendary home of the Amanackire.

While I didn’t read this, I can make an educated guess how it would go.

This priestess will be another sex object and likely her powers will be minimal and disappointing. I think she is probably someone who aids The Hero in his main quest and has very little autonomy outside aiding the mighty man. She probably can kill men with her weird sex powers and I highly doubt the snake goddess makes an appearance. The pure white albino part really made me roll my eyes.

I’m going to guess that the boy, named Rehger, is somehow a descendant of Raldnor, because why wouldn’t he be? He’s already described as mighty on the back of the book, so I know he’ll defeat whatever evil comes his way. He’ll probably sleep with witch girl and fall in love and get her pregnant, because this series loves that. There’s probably more rape. And a lot more conversations between men about other men and power.

Hard pass.

~

Tanith usually wows me with her ability to build a complex and deep sci-fi or fantasy world with a few key details. These books are wordier than I’m used to and I think that’s maybe not her strong suit. She spends a lot of time on dialogue and the inner thoughts of characters, but none of it felt compelling or added to the world. While the series was a miss for me, I’m still glad I own it and I’ll always be on the lookout for alternative cover designs.

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2 thoughts on “Series Review: The Wars of Vis”

  1. Ah man, that sucks since it’s Tanith and she’s your fav. From the years, I’m assuming these are some of her first books, maybe that’s why they sucked. Her writing and storytelling got better later.

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    1. Yeah it’s like her second trilogy, I believe. I have enjoyed books earlier than this but these were almost like…run of the mill. So macho. Little character development, useless women. Couldn’t do it.

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