The Shadow Sorceress (Spellsong Cycle Series #4)

The Shadow Sorceress (Spellsong Cycle Series #4)

4.6 5
by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

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L.E. Modesitt, Jr. has developed a wide readership with his popular fantasy novels set in the universe of Recluce. With more than a million copies in print, he continues to build a substantial audience with each new volume. He widened that audience with the first three-volume Spellsong Cycle set in a compelling and imaginative world where music is the vehicle for

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L.E. Modesitt, Jr. has developed a wide readership with his popular fantasy novels set in the universe of Recluce. With more than a million copies in print, he continues to build a substantial audience with each new volume. He widened that audience with the first three-volume Spellsong Cycle set in a compelling and imaginative world where music is the vehicle for the creation and wielding of magic. He now returns to that universe for a new cycle of tales starring a new heroine who must face a series of deadly political and military threats.

The Shadow Sorceress continues the story begun in the first Spellsong Cycle but focuses on the challenges facing Secca, now a young Sorceress. She is thrust into a position of power and responsibility when her mentor, Anna, the legendary Sorceress Protector of Defalk and the heroine of the original trilogy, dies unexpectedly before Secca's training as a master magic wielder is anywhere near complete.

Despite her reservations concerning the skills and strength of her ruler, Secca must immediately take command of all her magical resources to help suppress internal dissension in a neighboring province. Then she must rally potential allies to lift the naval siege laid on Nordwei by the Sea Priests, who bring with them a new kind of drumming magic that threatens the balance of power in the world, portending danger and destruction not imagined for decades.

Secca learns to fight battles effectively using sorcerous skills she has never used before, all while leading an army for the first time. She must master diplomacy in order to save her ruler and his kingdom, form alliances with unfriendly potential allies and mediate power struggles among ambitious and disparate societies. At the same time, she discovers the unexpected potential for love and companionship in a world where few men are wise enough to value women as anything more than wives, mistresses or mothers.

Coping with it all, Secca proves herself more than just a quick study, but a woman with a limitless capacity for courage, personal growth and fearless commitment to survival and fighting the good fight.

The Shadow Sorceress is the first book of the second Spellsong cycle and the fourth book set in Erde, the world of musical magic.

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Editorial Reviews

Romantic Times
New alliances and new players keep this series fresh. Mr. Modesitt crafts a tightly-woven tale with ominous overtones that point to a dramatic finale.
The saga continues on course toward becoming Modesitt's outstanding work of fantasy
This fourth book in Modesitt's Spellsong Cycle offers a new protagonist, Secca, a young woman thrust into the center of conflict when her mentor, Anna, the spellsinger of the earlier volumes, dies unexpectedly. The deaths of Anna, former Regent of Defalk, and of the old Liedfuhr of Mansuur, leave a power vacuum that many rush to fill. The Sea-Priests, who chain their womenfolk; the Holders of Neserea, who long for the return of women to chattel status; and even the weak Robero, formerly Jim-bob and now Lord of Defalk, all seek Anna's power for their own ends. Only Secca, the other sorceresses trained by Anna, and the people of Ranuak and Wei, the two kingdoms separated by a continent, will fight to preserve the ideals for which Anna strove—gender equality, responsibility, prosperity, justice, and peace. Beset on all sides and forced into a leadership role for which she feels unprepared, Secca must turn her constructive sorceress skills to destruction, flaming opponents and collapsing fortresses with spells previously used to build bridges and roads. Luckily, in a world that denies the abilities of women, Secca encounters Alcaren, a warrior of Ranuak where women work alongside men to trade and rule. If Secca can bring herself to trust him, she might find the love and companionship she needs to grow both personally and as a warleader. This novel of forced maturity is a must purchase for high school and public libraries where fantasy is read. Teens will devour Modesitt's usual multilayered story with its action-adventure superimposed upon Secca's hero's journey that provides true love in the end. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broadgeneral YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Tor, 544p, $27.95. Ages 15 to Adult. Reviewer: Marsha Valance
Library Journal
The unexpected death of her mentor catapults Secca into a position of great responsibility as she assumes the position of Defalk's premier Sorceress. Using the powers of both Clearsong and Darksong to combat internal dissension and external threats, Secca learns the price of her magic and comes to a hard-won knowledge of her own limitations. This continuation of Modesitt's popular "Spellsong Cycle" presents a new generation of characters in a world where magic arises from music. The author once again demonstrates a genuine flair for combining large-scale stories with small-scale drama in a work that belongs in most fantasy collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This is the fourth book in the series, which started with The Soprano Sorceress (Tor, 1997), but it provides a good entry point. The main character of the first three books, Anna, is dead, and her apprentice Secca must step into her leadership role. Modesitt provides readers with an overview of the politics of Liedwahr, his fantasy continent, and shows how its magic works and what it can and cannot do. The book then follows Secca, her apprentice Richina, and a large ensemble cast as they venture forth trying to stop the machinations of the evilly chauvinistic Sea-Priests, who curiously remain off-stage throughout. Secca must also face her own loneliness in a romantic subplot, which is handled with skill and decorum. The main enjoyment of the novel comes from the simple pleasure of escaping into the world the author has created. The writing style is easy and the characters are interesting and sympathetic. There is no resolution in this volume, however, and readers will have to wait for the next book to find out what happens to Secca, the Sea-Priests, and Liedwahr.-Paul Brink, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A new triology extending, but not improving, Modesitt's well-regarded Spellsong Cycle (Darksong Rising, 2000, etc.). "Something's going to happen and you'll be the one who'll have to deal with it," intones Anna, the Earth-born, singing sorceress heroine of the first three Spellsong books, to her protegee Secca. Anna then expires, fatally disturbed by changes in the Harmonies that govern this peculiar world where music is magic and a song, properly sung, can build bridges, pave roads, mine iron, or cause a cruel, feckless warlord to die of seemingly natural causes. Anna's death sets off a storm of dissension and conflict. Within days, the wily Sea Priests, led by the Maitre of Sturinn use strange drumming magic to send a tidal wave smashing into a defenseless port city, and a shifty sorcerer named Belmar utters a spell that causes a bunch of soldiers to slit their own throats. Lord Robero of Defalk sends Secca and Secca's apprentice Richina out to line up allies and put down insurrections. Secca, who is more accustomed to using sorcery for public-works projects, is eager use her powers against the army of rebellious Lord Mynntar-until she sings a spell designed to incinerate any soldier who isn't loyal to Defalk, and ends up immolating some of her allies in a literal version of friendly fire. An interminable number of minor characters come and go, weighing in about the moral complexities of sorcery, as Secca readies for a climactic sea battle against the Sturinn, who are counting on Alcaren, a handsome cousin to the Maitre and himself a sorcerer of moderate skills, to beat Secca at her own game. Is it mere magic that makes them fall in love? Soggy dialogue and paper-thin descriptivepassages, hobbled further by Modesitt's annoying habit of noting little more about his characters than their all-too-numerous smiles, frowns, and facial grimaces.

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Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Spellsong Cycle Series, #4
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.09(d)

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TWO sorceresses stood beside the scrying pool in the domed outbuilding that lay to the south of the main keep of Loiseau. The taller woman had fine white-blonde hair, hair that could have belonged to the young woman of nineteen that her appearance conveyed. Her thin and finely drawn face was without blemish, without lines, and her piercing blue eyes were clear. Only the fineness of Anna's features attested to her true age. Her figure was nearly as slender, and far more girlish than that of the smaller redhead who stood next to her.

Anna eased into a straight-backed chair behind the small writing table, then looked at the redhead. "Secca…our good Lord Robero has requested that you visit him at Elheld, preferably within the next two weeks."

"Doubtless he has yet another heir or lord for me to meet, Lady Anna." Secca's mouth offered a sardonic smile as she perched on the tiled edge of the scrying pool. Part of her smile was because Anna had never been able to say "Robero" without a twist to her lips. Then Secca had difficulty herself. When Secca had been growing up in Falcor under Anna's tutelege, Robero had been "Jimbob." Only when he'd become Lord of Defalk had he decided "Jimbob" was too undignified and changed his name to Robero. "After all these years, he would still have me consorted."

"You aren't that old." Anna added, "He doesn't understand you, but he does care for you."

"That may be, for he understands women not at all. He understands but strength and power, and that is why he respects you, lady."

Anna sighed gently. "I wish it were otherwise. Certainly we tried."

Secca nodded sympathetically. While Anna almost never used Lord Jecks' name, Anna often said "we" when referring to what the two had accomplished for Defalk in the less than half score of years when Anna had been regent and sole ruler of Defalk. The former regent spoke seldom of Lord Jecks, but Secca had seen the lamps of Anna's rooms still lit late into many nights over the ten years since his death. While Anna and Jecks had been friends and certainly lovers, consorting had been out of the question. That Secca had understood from the beginning, when Anna had effectively adopted her after the deaths of Secca's parents, for Jecks had been a powerful lord in his own right, and the grandsire of Lord Robero, during the time when Anna had been Sorceress-Regent for the underage Robero.

"Despite his inclinations, Robero has learned much," Anna continued, "and I am thankful for Alyssa."

"So am I," replied Secca.

"You know I never would have consorted you to him."

"Alyssa made it that much easier."

The two sorceresses laughed. Then Anna cleared her throat.

"You have something else I am to do?" asked Secca.

"Kylar…" Anna said.

Secca winced. "The one who suffocated his consort and claimed she died of consumption?" Anna nodded.

"You wish me to go to Issl as well?"

"I think you should go there first." The older sorceress smiled. "You will be paying my respects to Lord Fustar. He will be most happy to see your young and smiling face." The smile vanished. "The pool shows that Kylar does not understand what has happened in Defalk, and that he will abuse any woman he can. He now seeks yet another consort." Anna looked at Secca. "You understand how you must deal with Kylar, and with Lord Fustar? Nothing must happen to Kylar while you are at Issl."

"I understand, lady. Nothing will occur." Secca inclined her head. "I could take the players, and we could stop and add a dek to the road between Mencha and the River Chean on the south end, and then add another dek or so on our return journey from Elheld."

Anna shook her head. "You dislike Robero, and yet you would work to finish paving the road he demands."

"Why not? He is likely to be lord for many years to come, and it will speed our travel from Loiseau to Elheld." She laughed. "At times, I would that there were other ways to build his roads."

"In Defalk, there are no other ways." Anna shook her head. "Robero doesn't have enough men or engineers—or the golds to pay for them—and he cannot call on the Lords for anything other than their liedgeld and their levies in battle."

"So we must build roads and bridges."

"It's not all drudgery without rewards, Secca," Anna pointed out. "People know we build roads and bridges, and it helps associate sorcery with good things. Given how this land has regarded sorceresses in the past, that's not all bad."

"I know." Secca grinned suddenly. "I could also use sorcery to repair a wall or bridge or something for Lord Fustar…as a gesture from Loiseau."

The older sorceress smiled. "That might help."

"It is hard to see shadows in the light of a favor."

"Sometimes," Anna replied. "Sometimes. Other times, light makes the shadows more obvious. This time, I think you're right."

"When should I leave? Tomorrow?"

"If you wish to spend time on the highway and several days being a charming guest at Issl."

Secca nodded, then tilted her head. "Lady Anna?"

"Yes? You have that serious tone."

"I would that you would wait until I return before you send your next scroll to your daughter in the Mist Worlds."

Anna nodded politely.

"At least I could play for you and lessen the effort."

"We will see," replied the Sorceress and Lady of Mencha. "I'm not ancient yet."

"Lady…" Secca tried not to plead, but to convey her concern.

"Secca…" Anna laughed. "Don't turn me into a doddering old lady."

"No one could do that." The younger sorceress smiled at Anna's tone, smiled in spite of her worries, for she had seen the deepening darkness behind her foster-mother's eyes, and sensed the ever-increasing strain that even the lightest of Clearsong spells placed on Anna, for all that Anna looked little different from what she had more than a score of years earlier when first she had arrived in Defalk from the Mist Worlds.

Copyright © 2001 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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