The Sun Sword books tell a complex and detailed story spanning the breadth of the Domain of Annagar in the south - a land of desert and tradition, harsh sun and rigid social courtesies that form a deadly dance of protocol in which the slightest misstep can cause the downfall of a Clan; and the Empire of Essalieyan to the North - a sprawling land of culture and civilisation, commerce and trade in which the Ten Major Houses wield authority second only to the god-born Kings who rule them.
It is a tale of epic narrative and detailed plotting set in a world of rich, vibrant and diverse cultural identities. It is the story of the daughter of a God who refuses to be a pawn in his plans, it is the tale of a woman who shows the world a face of acceptance, but works in secret to change the conventions that make her a slave. It is the story of a Prince who must fight immortal foes to lay claim to the crown that has been denied him and the tale of a young woman whose gift of Sight takes her from city slums to glittering palaces and a position of power that she never dreamed of. Magi battle magi and demi-gods plot for power, warriors fight flesh and blood and the dark sorceries of forgotten legends.
This series is a huge undertaking with a massive cast of characters whose complexity brings to mind the work of Steven Erickson, but is as different to Erickson as he is to Martin. And where readers are willing to forgive both these authors the crime of writing ‘fat’ fantasy I urge you to do the same for West’s work. She is a magical writer of rich and compelling prose and works brilliantly at revealing the history of the world she writes in through character experience, rather than large chunks of ‘info-dump’. This is epic fantasy at its best in which histories and customs collide and not all is as it seems in a world where expectations are confounded and transformation of both events and characters is a delight in a plot of twists and turns.
West writes with insight, thoughtfulness and guts, much in the tradition of Guy Gavriel Kay, Janny Wurts, Tad Williams and Jennifer Roberson and is one of the best fantasy writers I’ve read. And if you do like what you read, check out her work as Michelle Sagara, it’s a lighter read but just as good.