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Book Review: Flight of the Renshai by Mickey Zucker Reichert

# Genre: Epic/High Fantasy
# Hardcover: 464 pages
# Publisher: DAW
# Publication Date: September 1, 2009
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0756402735
# ISBN-13: 978-0756402730
# Author Website: Mickey Zucker Reichert

Like The Wheel of Time, The Renshai Chronicles were some of the books I grew up with. Mickey Zucker Reichert’s tales based in Norse mythology were stirring and exciting. So it was with pleasure that I turned to Reichert’s latest edition to her canon, Flight of the Renshai.

The story picks up a generation after the events of Children of Wrath. Tae, Kevral, and Ra-Khir are parents with children in their late teens. Subikahn, Saviar and Calistin are three brothers, the first two twins with different fathers, who want to seek their own way in the world. Calistin is a skilled Renshai warrior, the best anyone has seen since the founder of the Renshai Colbey. But his pride is a problem for him, and he must learn humility in order to become a truly great warrior. Saviar is jealous of his younger brother, and wonders if being a Renshai is what he really wants. Subikahn is a gay man in a culture that kills lovers of men, and the son of a King who is caught between the law of the land and love for his son. Each of these characters must find their own way in the world, even as the Renshai must face potential exile from the land of their centuries long ally and the attacks of the mysteriously organized pirates.

The plot of this novel moves in a sunburst. From the city of Bearn, the character’s lives radiate outward into the wilderness, only to be drawn back in by the gravity of the events in Bearn. Most of the story is told from the point of view of the three brothers and Tae Kahn, but there are some minor character perspectives as well.

Reichert does a good job of making each character different from one another, each having their own sets of problems. However, the motivations of the characters tend to be one-dimensional. My memory of the earlier Renshai novels was of complex stories with fascinating characters, characters whose lives I wanted to inhabit. In Flight of the Renshai, I would occasionally have the same feelings, but none of the characters really got me involved in the story.

And too, what made for easy reading when I was in middle school is now evident as middle school targeted writing. This five hundred seventy-eight page novel is written for readers with, at best, a junior high school reading level, even as it deals with themes that are more appropriate to an upper high school student. As an adult, I many times felt that the story explained itself to often, telling the reader that the is theme “prejudice” making the point with a complete lack of subtlety. In essence, the novel was as prescriptive as it was descriptive.

Reichert was one of my favorite writers growing up. The Renshai Chronicles had an interesting basis in Nordic myth and legend, and the Renshai were exciting warriors out of legend. But this new work feels too forced, too much an attempt to capitalize on previous popularity. Like the later David Eddings, Reichert’s later work just doesn’t hold a candle to the earlier novels. Long-time readers of Reichert will no doubt enjoy Flight of the Renshai and high school age readers will find a good entry point to the metanarrative, but adult readers will find that the book feels dumbed down and overly simplistic in construction and content.