The Crown of Silence (Magravandias Series #2)

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Overview

When Shan was fifteen years old, dark soldiers came out of the west, like a cloud of evil boiling over the soft hills of his homeland. They commanded terrible beasts, which killed with hook claws like scythes and cold eyes that dripped icy fire. The soldiers wore helmets that looked like fiends, tusked and snarling and sneering.

The terrible consequences of war have left the boy Shan wounded in body and mind by the invading army of Magravandias. He's taken from his devastated ...

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The Crown of Silence (Magravandias Series #2)

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Overview

When Shan was fifteen years old, dark soldiers came out of the west, like a cloud of evil boiling over the soft hills of his homeland. They commanded terrible beasts, which killed with hook claws like scythes and cold eyes that dripped icy fire. The soldiers wore helmets that looked like fiends, tusked and snarling and sneering.

The terrible consequences of war have left the boy Shan wounded in body and mind by the invading army of Magravandias. He's taken from his devastated village by the magus Taropat, chosen by the master's mysterious impulse to become the wizard's pupil, and a weapon against the invading empire.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Constantine crafts her characters beautifully and with a sure hand: These are people with whose pains and shortcomings one can readily identify, caught up in a story redolent of myth, magic and political intrigue."--Booklist

"Storm Constantine is a literary fantasist of outstanding power and originality. Her work is rich, idiosyncratic and completely engaging. Her themes, constantly explored and re-examined through her novels, have much in common with Philip K. Dick--the nature of identity, the nature of reality, the creative power of the human imagination--while her sensibility reminds me of Angela Carter at her most inventive."--Michael Moorcock

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this second book of her Chronicles of Magravandias trilogy, featuring rites of passage, rituals and alternative sexualities used as everyday occurrences of statecraft, British author Constantine (the Wraeththu trilogy) has created a patchwork with no real unity of action, plot or perspective. At the start, soldiers of the invading Magravand, introduced in the first book, brutalize Shan, a young peasant boy. Shan is rescued by a half-human, half-mage, Taropat (aka Khaster), whose lover had earlier suffered a similar fate, and this dark past becomes both a training ground and a flaw in their relationship as Taropat transforms Shan into a worthy assistant. With the Magravand and its vassal kingdoms as background to their adventures, Shan, Taropot the mage and his human host, Khaster, among others, prepare for a quest to recover the Crown of Silence and unseat the Magravand king. Viewpoints shift with no apparent consistency. Each protagonist is "honed in the fires of experience" by homosexual rape, systematic torture or beatings. The tale eventually moves on to a ritual quest to seven lakes, where each quester undergoes a routine of self-discovery marked by tricks and clich s rather than any growth in spirit or knowledge. A successful quest story rests on the uniqueness of its politics, moral questions or characters. This novel falls short of the ideal. Nevertheless, this series is technically superior to most contemporary fantasy series and will be of interest to those who wish to read about politics and sex or who are Constantine fans. (Mar. 14) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
Shan survives a devastating raid on his village and is apprenticed to the wizard Taropat. Trained in the ways of magic, he is sent to the intrigue-filled city of Mewt and finds himself participating in a mystical quest to find the Crown of Silence, an artifact that will be given to the True King, the one who will stop the Magravandian Empire and bring about peace. But the True King's identity has yet to be divulged. The signs are pointing to Valraven Palindrake, Taropat's sworn enemy, and Taropat vows to prevent this at any cost. This sequel to Sea Dragon Heir is as exciting and absorbing as the first book, with complex, fallible heroes and few outright villains. Fans will be clamoring for it. Buy if you have the first book, and if you don't, buy both. For all fantasy collections. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Tor, 431p., Root
Library Journal
When the Magravandian armies destroy his village and leave him homeless and brutalized, 14-year-old Shan finds refuge with a mysterious man named Taropat who takes him to his forest home. Taropat teaches Shan the skills of magic and war in order to use the boy as an instrument of revenge and then turns him loose upon the world to discover the secret of a legendary artifact known as the Crown of Silence. As Shan grows in wisdom and cunning, he also learns the secrets of his mentor's past and its connection to his own shattered dreams. This sequel to Sea Dragon Heir continues the tale of Valraven Palindrake, expanding on the lost history of the conquered land of Caradore and bringing new dimensions of complexity to a tormented man and those chosen by fate to cross his path. This solid continuation of a gracefully told epic fantasy makes a good addition to most fantasy collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second entry in Constantine's-trilogy? series?-about the aggressively expansionist Magravandian Empire (Sea Dragon Heir, 2000) and the people who scheme to run it, change it, or bring about its downfall. Young peasant Shan survives a massacre by Magravandian soldiers and is adopted by the ancient magus Taropat. As Shan will eventually learn, Taropat is also Khaster Leckery, the missing (and presumed dead) brother-in-law of Valraven Palindrake, Dragon Heir of Caradore. Taropat, who has big plans for Shan, teaches the boy some stuff while the author develops private mythologies at tedious length. Eventually, Shan will join a group Palindrake's enemies (including Khaster's brother Merlan) in a mystical quest for the Crown of Silence. An uncontrolled and unconvincing continuation: dedicated fans only.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312873653
  • Publisher: St. Martins Press-3pl
  • Publication date: 1/5/2002
  • Series: Magravandias Series , #2
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 434
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Storm Constantine has written over twenty books, both fiction and non-fiction and well over fifty short stories. Her novels span several genres, from literary fantasy, to science fiction, to dark fantasy. She is most well known for her Wraeththu trilogy (omnibus edition published by Tor), and is currently at work on a new set of novels set in the world of Wraeththu, beginning with The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure (Tor, 2003). Wraeththu are magical and sensual hermaphroditic beings, who when their story first began, almost twenty years ago, broke startling new ground in the often staid fantasy/sf genres.

Her influences include myth, magic and ancient history and the foibles of human nature. She uses writing and fiction to bridge the gap between mundane reality and the unseen realms of imagination and magic. She strives to awaken perception of these inner realms and the unexplored territory of the human psyche.

Aside from writing, Storm runs the Lady of the Flame Iseum, a group affiliated to the Fellowship of Isis, and is known to conduct group members on tours of ancient sites in the English landscape, in her husband's beat up old army Land Rover. She is also a Reiki Master/Teacher, has recently set up her own publishing company, Immanion Press, to publish esoteric books, and teaches creative writing when she gets the time.

Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman series, once said: 'Storm Constantine is a mythmaking, Gothic queen, whose lush tales are compulsive reading. Her stories are poetic, involving, delightful, and depraved. I wouldn't swap her for a dozen Anne Rices!'

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Read an Excerpt

Crown of Silence

1
EXPERIENCE OF WAR
WHEN SHAN WAS fifteen years old, dark soldiers came out of the west, like a cloud of evil boiling over the soft hills of his homeland. They commanded terrible beasts, which killed with hooked claws like scythes and cold eyes that dripped icy fire. The soldiers wore helmets that looked like fiends, tusked and snarling and sneering.
Shan was just an ordinary boy. His mother was dead, and his father, Hod, gathered crops in the fields for a local farmholder. In the winter, Hod harvested wood from the rustling forests that surrounded the fields. Shan worked at his father's side, with no ambition ever to do anything else. They lived in a one-room cottage on the outskirts of Holme, a village filled with peasant folk, whose lives were those of toil and scant ambition. There was a squire, Sir Rupert Sathe, to whom they paid tithes and who occasionally funded village celebrations. Once a year Sir Rupert attended God's chapel for the harvest festival, but other than that, he was mostly invisible in the villagers' lives. His sons and daughters spent most of their time, along with their mother, in the city of Dantering, far down the Great WesternRoad. Country life held no attractions for Sir Rupert's family, so there were no winsome, blue-blooded maids to fire the hearts of local boys, nor rakehellion sons to make the village girls tremble in their beds.
Shan was as happy as any person in his position could be. He was fed adequately, the cottage snug and secure against wolves in winter and cool in the summer. He and his father grew vegetables in the small patch that surrounded their home, and there was a single apple tree that always bore good fruit. His aunt came regularly to make sure he and his father didn't live like pigs, which left alone they probably would. Once a week they worshipped in the chapel of the God who had no name, and laid offerings of forest flowers at the altars of His three daughters, the virgin, the mother and one without child. Though devout in their conventional worship, they also made more furtive offerings to the folk of the forest, to ensure that their livestock were free from blight, and their produce without bane. Also, most importantly, they revered the guardians of the land, those invisible spirits whose benevolence ensured the seasons gave forth their appointed bounty. The god might enable a person's soul to walk the airy road beyond death into the heaven of heavens, but all the villagers knew who really held power in the realm of the living; the fertile earth, the running stream, the water-bearing clouds. The guardians cared not for human souls; they were the life of the land, and were treated with respect rather than worshipped.
News came slowly down the Great Western Road, or not at all. The people of Holme knew nothing of politics. When the great city of Dantering fell to the Magravands, nobody heard. Messengers might have fled from the burning walls with dire news for other cities, but the villages were hidden among the hills. Who would bring news to them in time? They were unaware Dantering had been their last defense against whatever might come prowling from the west.
The soldiers came at sundown, first to the manor house. Sir Rupert, dining alone, was dragged roaring from his dinner table and summarily beheaded before the astonished servants, who had been rounded up like sheep. Then the male servants were hung, the women raped and beaten. A commanding officer of the invading army went into the dining room and there sat down with his staff to finish thesquire's dinner. All the time they ate, they must have been able to hear the screams of the women, the pleading moans of the men.
While their officers were making inroads into the port wine, the rest of the troupe rode down toward Holme, their beasts flapping and scrabbling before them. The guardians of the land sank down into the deep earth at their approach, sensing a power so dark their own was in danger of being snuffed out. Their absence left the landscape without spirit, its inhabitants more vulnerable to attack.
Men do terrible things in war. To fighting men, people are no longer people. The soldiers displayed the head of Sir Rupert high upon a pole, as they poured like oil over the hills and into Holme. The villagers were taken by surprise, and offered no resistance to speak of, yet still their cottages were put to the torch, their women ravished, and the men cut down like wheat. It was a senseless atrocity. The schemes and aspirations of men in power meant nothing to the people of Holme. They cared only for their daily toil, the bread upon their tables, the roofs over their heads. The soldiers could just have told the villagers who their new masters were and ridden on. Whoever sat in the manor house would still need his land tended, after all.
When it happened, Shan was sitting by the willow pool at the back of the cottage. He heard the noises--strange and terrible--and for a moment sat very still. His instincts told him at once that something bad was happening, something very bad. He smelled smoke, and it was not the sweet smell of wood burning. His father came out of the cottage and looked at him where he was squatting by the water, tense and alert as a young dog. They exchanged a glance, and then Hod went out to the road and looked down it. Shan heard the sound of galloping hooves. Someone was coming, a great many someones. He wanted to tell his father to move, that they should run into the woods in the next field, but it all happened too quickly. Later, he thought about how if he'd shouted out this intuitive suggestion the moment Hod had looked round the cottage wall, they might both have been saved, and for many years punished himself for those minutes of indecision.
The riders were accompanied by two of the terrible black beasts, which lunged ahead of them down the road, scratching up sparks.They fell upon Shan's father before he could defend himself or attempt to escape. The razor claws slashed and the poisonous eyes dripped smoking ruin. It did not take them long to reduce a human body to a mess of meat no longer recognizable as a man.
Shan was frozen in horror by the pool. He wondered what he and his father could have done wrong. Who were these people? His stasis was mercifully brief and once it released him, he surrendered to the instinct to flee. At first, his limbs moved sluggishly, as in a nightmare. He struggled in what seemed painful slowness toward the back gate. The flesh over his spine contracted, waiting for a blow. Had they seen him? The fact that his father had just been gored to death had not sunk in. Self-preservation was his only thought. Suddenly, everything became faster. He vaulted over the gate like a deer, and his legs were pumping madly as he cut a path through the long grass of the field beyond.
He had almost reached the shadows of the trees, whose labyrinth he knew so well and in which he would undoubtedly have managed to lose his pursuers, when the riders caught up. There were only two, and the beasts were not with them. This was clearly to be different sport. They set their horses prancing round Shan in a circle. He could not see their faces, because of the demonic helmets, but he heard their laughter, muffled by metal. They swung swords that still dripped blood. He tried to keep running, but they left him no avenue of escape. He cowered in the grass before them, hoping that death would be quick.
One of the riders dropped lightly from his saddle, his leather armor creaking. He was hot in his leathers, for Shan could smell him strongly. The soldier said something in a language Shan did not know, but he could tell it was a rhetorical question from the tone: something like, "What have we here?"
"I haven't done anything," Shan squealed, but perhaps they didn't understand him.
The things those men made him do and did to him, Shan later blotted from his memory. They were without compassion and so full of mirth at their obscene attack, it was beyond the worst human evil.They hurt Shan badly, and perhaps thought they'd killed him, because after a while, they got back onto their horses and rode away again.
Shan lay in the crushed grass, unable to see properly. His head was full of a buzzing sound and lights pulsed before his eyes. Carrion flies landed on his face and feasted on the crusts of blood and saliva and semen. He thought his body was broken beyond repair and dared not move. Every muscle felt wrenched and torn.
The moon rose above him, hung about with a pall of bitter smoke. He heard a vixen cry, and the contemplative hoot of an owl. Wide white wings crossed the clouds above his head. He heard their rattling whisper. Perhaps some of the forest folk would insinuate themselves into the night and come ghosting through the trees toward him. They might take pity on him, and remember the sweet-smelling posies he had left among the mossy roots for their pleasure. But no one came, and the land was quiet, holding its breath, its guardians still affronted and buried far deep beneath the soil.
Shan expelled a careful sigh. Must he wait to die? How long would it take? He thought he could hear ominous sounds in his body, as of vital fluids flowing through the wrong channels, pooling in dangerous places. Through his blurred vision, he saw his father standing over him, and thought that perhaps he'd been wrong about seeing him slaughtered. "You must get up, lad," said Hod and his face was a mask of grief.
"Dada," murmured Shan through his torn lips and tried to reach out with his bloodied fingers. But his father wasn't there at all. For only a moment, he thought someone else stood close to him, a young man, still and silent. He tensed in terror, but there was only the sky above him, and a few stalks of broken grass hanging over his face. The tears came then, although he couldn't give in to them because the sobbing would hurt his bruised chest. He set his face into a rictus of despair and the tears rolled coldly, but he was otherwise immobile.
He lay in the field all night, occasionally dozing, when horrendous dreams would fill his mind and slap him back to feverish wakefulness. The dawn came beautifully over the land, in a roll of mist that conjured every scent from the trees and the wild flowers and eclipsed thestink of burning. Some of the spirit of the landscape was creeping back, tentatively, in fragments. Shan turned onto his side and for a few moments hung poised on his elbows, panting. How was it possible to ache this much and not be dead? Would it take days to die? His clothes were torn to rags and stained with blood. Shakily, he got to his feet and then discovered, with some surprise, that he could walk, albeit stiffly. He could see immediately that the cottage was no more than a smoking tumble of charred beams and boulders. The willows too had been mostly burned and the pool was covered with an oily, ashy scum. What of the willow women, the spirits who lived within the trees? Had they fled or been destroyed? Shan made his way slowly to the gate and leaned there, suddenly terrified of facing whatever might be lying in the road. He hadn't the strength to bury what was left of his father. Would Hod's spirit understand?
Skirting the back of the ruined cottage, Shan peered up the road toward Holme. He felt he must go there, see if anyone was left alive. All was silent, and thin skeins of black smoke rose lazily into the dawn sky. He knew the soldiers and their beasts had gone. There was no sense of their presence.
Holme was no more. The village had stood for hundreds of years but had been destroyed utterly in only a couple of hours. Shan stumbled toward the old green, which was now a patch of mud and black ashes. Bodies lay everywhere, but Shan could not recognize them. He heard sobbing coming from the ruins, so not everybody was dead. Presently, some women, who had been crouched in a building that was still half standing, saw him motionless there, staring blankly at the carnage. Two of them came limping out to him, their bodies bent almost double, like those of very old women, though only yesterday they had been young. Their gowns were rags and their faces black with soot, streaked with tear trails. They were still weeping uncontrollably and the sight of Shan's half-naked body, his lower parts swathed in blood, made them weep all the more and put steepled hands against their mouths. For a few moments, sound faded from the world, and he was faced with a silent image of the lamenting women, their agonized postures, their twisted faces. The buzzing noise rose to a crescendo in his head, then abated, leaving a gleaming calmthat tasted of metal in his throat. He realized in later years he had been lucky; the soldiers had thought him pretty enough to be an object of lust rather than simply fodder for their swords.
For three days the survivors lived numbly in the ruins. Nobody had the strength or will even to think about rebuilding, and in their shock they were cut off from the spirit of the land that gave them vigor. Those few men who had survived by running away came slinking back and buried all the bodies they could find. A few of the women went up to the manor house, but found only corpses blackening in the yard. The doors hung open; already wild animals had gone inside, and had eaten whatever edible things they'd come across. The manor seemed haunted now; the villagers did not stay, even though its untouched walls would have provided shelter for everyone left in Holme.
Back in the village, the survivors all ate raw vegetables from the fields, unable to face killing even a rabbit for meat. Blood scared them now. The god of blood had come visiting and put his mark upon them. He had murdered the God with no name and desecrated His chapel. The priest had been sodomized with a holy relic and left for dead. In his last agonized moments, one of the soldiers' beasts had chewed off his arms. Most of the villagers would never be able to take meat again. Few could talk about what had happened, and many sat rocking in the rubble with blank eyes, hugging their violated bodies, their faces masks of ash and pain.
On the first day, Shan went to wash himself in the river. He lay on his back in the water, with no thoughts in his head. If he closed his eyes, the sounds came back; cruel laughter, grunts and screams. At the same time, his nose would fill with the stench of sweat-soaked leather. He could not see how he would ever sleep again and stared up at the sky, his eyes watering because he was trying not to blink. He pictured the images of the three daughters of God hanging over him like clouds. They were not weeping, but serene, impassive. They are only clouds, Shan thought.
On the second day, dressed in clothes too big for him, scavenged from a house of the dead, he went back to his home. The men had removed his father's body and had buried it beside the willow pool.There was a dark stain on the road where he'd been killed. Apathetically, Shan kicked through the rubble of the cottage, but could find nothing to salvage. For a long time he sat on the porch stone, which had survived intact. The sun beat down and conjured a heat haze in the dust. Behind him, the cooling charred joists creaked and popped. Birds were singing in the trees again, and cattle wandered aimlessly across the meadows. The future was meaningless. Shan was living utterly in the moment, and each that came was empty.
On the third day, a rider on a yellow horse came out of the east. He rode into the ruins of Holme and pulled his mount to a halt where the inn had once stood. "Do not be afraid," he called to the scuttling presences that had fled to hide themselves at his approach. "I mean you no harm."
He was very patient, and did not dismount, or say anything more. He drank from a water leather and leaned forward in his saddle, resting his hands on the pommel. It was difficult to see his face because he wore a hat with an enormous brim, but hazel-colored hair streamed out down his back. Eventually, a few of the villagers slipped shyly from their hiding places and watched him without getting too close. He nodded to them and lifted his head so that they could see his smile. His jaw was clean and well shaped. He looked to be a rich man.
"The demon of death has ridden through this land," he told them clearly but in a strange accent. "You are not the only ones to have suffered."
A woman dared to speak then. "What of Bischurch, Axenford and Willows?"
The rider lifted his shoulders in a shrug. "All gone. Like Holme."
A sob drifted out from the ruins. Some had had relatives in these villages.
"Why has this happened?" asked the woman who had dared to speak.
"There is no reason," answered the rider, "really. Greed, power ..." He raised his hands, which were elegant and expressive. "You must carry on--as others have. The Magravands are your lords and masters now--unless you have the courage to fight them."
Few knew what he meant exactly, although some had heard of Magravandias. It was a distant country. "What do the Magravands want with us?"
"Land," said the rider, "more and more of it, until all the world bears the black and purple banner of their abominable emperor."
More of the survivors were slinking from their hiding places and among them was Shan. He stood looking at the rider, and experienced a hot pang of envy. How clean he looked, how content. Whatever he might say about the soldiers, it was clear he had not suffered personally at their hands. What right had he to come and talk to them so casually in their grief and despair? Shan picked up a stone the size of his hand, and threw it at the stranger. As it flew from his fingers, some of his anger went with it.
The horse reared and uttered a cry, for the stone had caught it on the wither. The rider nearly fell off, but managed to control both his posture and the animal before his dignity was entirely lost. For a few seconds, he looked very angry, and his fierce eyes scanned the crowd. "Too late for that!" he snapped. "It is not I you should assault with missiles! Did any of you raise your hands to the demons that destroyed your homes? I think not. You ran, you hid, you crouched and whimpered! Only a coward would attack a lone stranger who wishes you no ill."
"Go away!" someone yelled.
Shan had another stone in his hand, and was ready to throw it. It was conceivable the whole episode could have got entirely out of hand, because other survivors were now looking at the stony ground intently, their fingers flexing, images of their recent assault brimming through their minds. It would take only a couple more of them to find their courage and the stranger would be surrounded.
The rider must have known this, and maybe regretted his bald words. Perhaps he realized he had told them things they did not want to hear. They were scarred and grieving victims, ready to lash out only when they thought the odds were at last stacked in their favor. The rider scanned the crowd swiftly, then fixed Shan with a steady eye. He did not look angry now. Gathering up his reins, he urged his horse forward.
Before Shan realized what was happening, he had been grabbed and hauled up across the front of the saddle. Because he still ached so much, he could not struggle.
The rider wheeled his mount around in a circle a few times and addressed the astonished onlookers. "You will hear of this boy again," he said, and with these words, kicked his horse into a gallop, and careered off up the road toward the east.
 

 

THE RIDER'S NAME WAS Taropat and he lived in a high narrow house in the middle of a forest, approached by a winding track. He was, Shan quickly realized, a wizard. The journey took two days, and during this time, Shan tried to escape on several occasions. It was then he discovered that Taropat was no ordinary man, because all he had to do to halt the runaway was raise his hand and say a few words, and Shan would come tumbling down as if someone had cast a rope around his ankles. Taropat was a light sleeper, and no matter how quietly Shan tried to slip away at night, his attempts always failed. It did not stop him trying, however.
"Boy, give up," said Taropat, smiling, after the fifth abortive escape bid. He never bound Shan, or punished him. He did not have to.
Shan could not speak to him and only snarled and spat. He wondered if Taropat would do to him what the soldiers had done. This time he would die fighting. But Taropat did not come near him, except for the times when they rode the horse together, during which their proximity was unavoidable. As they rode, Taropat would ramble on, talking about distant lands, and demons and emperors and armies. Shan wanted to tell him to shut up, he did not care, but something had happened to his voice. It had flown away from him as if it had been a bird captive in his throat. Sometimes he could feel the ghost of its fluttering wings, but no matter how hard he tried, no sound would come out. Taropat did not seem concerned about this. "We will soon be there," he said, and then explained where "there" was. "No one can find my house, it is so safely hidden. It will be yoursanctuary for a while." Shan did not question why Taropat had abducted him. It had simply happened.
The forest around the high, narrow house was very beautiful and very old, and the spirits of the trees were strong. As Shan and Taropat made the final stage of the journey along the winding path, ancient oaks seemed to reach out to them with gnarled hands. They were not angry hands, or cruel, but welcoming and curious. Shan felt as if they were riding through a silent, watchful crowd. Sunlight came down softly through the high crown of the forest; the deep green moss around the tree roots shone like crushed velvet. The forest was tranquil; birdsong was muted, but in the distance there was a chime of running water. Small purple flowers sequinned the short apple-colored grass that grew between the trees. Squirrels leapt across the path, but far over the travellers' heads, so that the heavy branches swayed and rustled. Shan could sense the presence of forest folk very near, although they didn't show themselves. He felt comforted. In such a place, he might heal, although his conscious mind did not realize that.
Shan grinned when the house appeared through the trees. It was such a ridiculous shape, he could not see how it remained standing. It stood in its own glade, which was dominated by a large pool fed by a rushing stream that fell over a lip of rock, braceleted with ferns. The house was attached to a water wheel, and rose above it in a crooked spire, crowned by an immense weather vane that spun round madly even though there was no wind.
"We are here," said Taropat and swung down out of the saddle.
Shan had been in a daze during the journey, but now they had reached their destination, a crashing wave of weakness broke over him. He felt exhausted, used up and withered and could not even find the strength to slip to the ground. He thought, I will never see my father again. It seemed impossible. How could life change so much so quickly?
Taropat lifted him off the horse and carried him toward the house. "You must sleep now," he said, "for three full days. In that time I shall conjure nymphs of respite to comb your mind with their cool fingers. When you wake, your grief will be raw and immediate, but at least there will be a wound to heal."
Shan wanted to say that he could not sleep properly, but his voice had not flown back to him. All he saw of the house, as Taropat carried him through its dim-lit rooms, were picture fragments: a high-backed chair; a tilted painting of a frowning face; the gleam of a crystal ball on a cluttered table; a tattered cloth hung from the ceiling; cracked paint on the walls beside the stairs. He was taken to a room where the light was green because ivy grew over nearly all of the narrow window. The air smelled of earth and ancient dust. Taropat laid him on a bed that was too soft; the billowy mattress seemed to swallow Shan up. His eyes felt gritty and it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep them open. He could not bear the thought of dreams and in anguish reached out and caught hold of Taropat's wrist, forcing all of his feelings into his reddened eyes. Don't let me sleep! Don't make me!
"Be not afraid," said Taropat gently, and his hand came down upon Shan's face like a swooping wing. The fingers were cool and soothing and Shan could do nothing but close his eyes. "I have put a charm on you," said Taropat. "Your eyes shall see nothing evil from within or without. If you dream, it will be of the distant past or the best moments of the future."
Shan did dream. He saw lands spread out below him, as if he were as big as a god. He saw the pageant of banners, horses, and castles steepled with a hundred flagpoles. The panorama of life revolved about him in a swirl of color and feeling. But all of this he forgot once he awoke. Only one dream stayed with him.
He saw himself as a very young child, sitting upon his mother's knee in the cottage garden, his head resting against her bosom. She was an apple woman, all rosy and ripe, in the time before the sickness took her breath. "Now, Shan, you be a good boy for your mammy. Keep yourself clean and always be polite--even to rude people. You have a secret eye inside your head that sees into people's hearts. Learn how to open it, for you will need it." She tickled his stomach to make him laugh, and Shan could hear his own merriment ringing out in the summer air. Then his mother turned her head to the road and said, "Oh, I have a visitor." She put Shan down beside her chair, where a bowl of podded peas was lying. He saw her walk to the wicket gateand there was a tall dark figure, who had come to put his mark upon her. She came back frowning. "Now that's a strange thing. I saw a man standing by the fence, but then he was gone."
He is still with you, Shan thought, and could see a shadow hovering tall behind his mother's body.
When Shan woke, the dream seemed so real, he wondered if it had ever really happened. As the images faded, he became aware of his surroundings and knew he was in a room that now belonged to him. He didn't know it, yet it was familiar, and he felt at home in its ambience. It was dark, but cozy like a den, and cluttered with items he might have collected himself: strange stones, pieces of gnarled wood, bright feathers from magical birds, twisted rods of metal that might be the spears of lightning gods. After this awareness had settled, Shan's grief made itself felt. It seemed to have been waiting next in line. Shan was too appalled to weep. He felt ashamed, terrified, and in indescribable pain, both in mind and body. His own cruel ordeal, the utter injustice of the death of Holme, the brutal waste, were beyond his comprehension. The soldiers were not a conquering army but a plague, striking people down at random. Shan knew little of war, but understood that it was the commerce of kings and generals. What had simple villagers to do with it? And surely war meant fighting on both sides? No one in Holme had had the chance to fight. They had been murdered, the victims of a lust that could only be sated by blood and pain. What kind of people were the Magravands? He remembered the two soldiers who had raped him in the field: their demon helms high above him as they circled their horses, the red sunset gleaming on their black leather armor, and the smells of leather, sweat and blood. Firmly, he forced this image from his mind. He did not want to remember any more.
Then Taropat came into the room carrying an enormous bowl of porridge. Shan's body responded immediately; his stomach growled and his mouth filled with saliva. He had not eaten properly since before the soldiers came.
"Now you are ready to begin again," said Taropat, sitting down on the bed and offering Shan the bowl.
Shan took a mouthful of the porridge, then felt sick. He was hungry yet couldn't eat.
"Force yourself," said Taropat firmly, "or I shall have to sit on your chest and feed you myself."
Shan opened his mouth and a croak came out, the sound that an injured crow might make.
"That's better," said Taropat. "Now eat. I shall let you do so in private. Then, when you are ready, you will find clothes in the chest, and you may dress yourself and come downstairs. You have slept long enough."
Left alone, Shan took small mouthfuls of the sweet porridge and although it took him nearly an hour, cleaned the bowl. It made his mouth feel dry and his stomach swollen, but there was a new strength in his body.
On top of the chest against the far wall was a large cracked bowl and a jug of cold water. Shan drank some of the water, poured the rest into the bowl and washed his face and hands with it, then he went to the window and looked out. The waterwheel was turning slowly, making a grinding noise. Beneath it, the pool looked deep and dark and watchful, vibrating with unseen life. Bright blue birds flashed in the sunlight, flying so fast Shan could not make out their shapes. Perhaps they weren't birds at all. The yellow horse was tethered below his window, cropping the lush grass. Beyond, the soughing green shadows of the forest hugged the house in its glade like giant hands. The air seemed to shimmer with the immanence of the guardians of the land. It was an idyllic scene. Shan wondered then what Taropat wanted from him. Was he seeking an apprentice, or had he just felt pity for the grubby urchin scrabbling through the ruins of Holme? What made people perform acts of kindness? Perhaps Taropat wasn't really kind. It was difficult to tell. He could be fattening Shan up to eat him. Shan remembered his mother's words in the dream. He wanted to open his inner eye that could read the hearts of men.
Copyright © 2001 by Storm Constantine

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2006

    A Must Read!

    I enjoyed this book more than I did the first one! I bought this book on sale and didn't give it a second glance, and couldn't stop reading when I picked it up. A mustread for any Fantasy lovers!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2003

    Delving into the spirit

    An excellent allegory of the process of gaining self-awareness, and maturing into adulthood. All the characters, especially Shan, have some great pain in their past they need to overcome. Through education with Taropat, spiritual discovery with Sinaclara, and finally coming together and testing with the other questers, Shan is able to come to terms with himself and become a more complete person. While Shan's development is a masterpiece, the other characters leave a bit to be desired. Tayven seems to be almost a carbon copy of Calanthe from the Wraeththu series. It isn't explained why Taropat, who seems like a less wise and more sinister Merlin, was untouched by the testing (perhaps in the first or third books, which I haven't yet read, she does). But all in all a very good book; I'd definitely recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Entertaining fantasy

    At fifteen, Shan lives a relatively contented life working along side his father gathering crops in the isolated village of Holme. However, everything changes when the ferocious invading Magravandas ravage the village. The atrocities are numerous as men are viciously murdered and women brutally raped. They kill Shan¿s family and brutalize him leaving him for dead. <P>Taropat the wizard arrives after the soldiers leave and informs the survivors that ¿the demon of death¿ marches the land. He takes Shan with him and trains the lad into focusing his hatred and using magic as a weapon of retaliation against the Magravanda Empire. Taropat seeks a hero while Shan seeks vengeance, thus a marriage of convenience is forged between the tutor and the student. As he starts to learn more about Taropat, Shan joins a quest seeking the Crown of Silence with each member of the alliance planning to take control of the artifact. <P>THE CROWN OF SILENCE, the second tale in Storm Constantine¿s Magravandias Chronicles, is a well-written epic fantasy that will thrill genre diehards. The story line has exciting moments that bring alive an engaging plot, but at other times the tale seems bogged down with too much explanation of the mythos behind the legends. Shan is an interesting character fueled by loathing to become all he can be and more as he converts from peasant to mage. Taropat is also a captivating player, but no more on him because his background is pivotal to the novel. Although not quite as entertainingly smooth as SEA DRAGON HEIR, Ms. Constantine adds depth to her mythical realm with an overall strong entry. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2003

    Wish i had bought Song Master instead

    I've heard a lot of hype about Storm Constantine, so of course when given the choice between purchasing The Crown of Silence and Song Master by Orson Scott Card, I went for the Crown. It wasn't my best decision. Constantine shows wonderful skills in descriptions and I truly do feel as if I ahev been led into another world. but other than that there is very little that holds you to the book. The characters are very..cookie cutter, Shan, the simple country boy who wants to know more, Nip, crazy girl who makes no sense yet knows all and Taropat, the troubled magus. The rape and sex in general seem inconsequential to the story, and is the one place where Con. fails to use her decriptive skills. overall the sentences are simple, the dialogue seems disconnected and I find myself slowly wishing i had bought Song Master instead. I imagine hard core fans will enjoy it, but for anyone who is trying to decide which book of Con.'s to start with, I would go for something else. Maybe this was just a fluke.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2011

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