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Friday Indie Review: Seven Exalted Orders by Deby Fredericks

*Originally Posted by Frog Jones

Ok, Ok.  I promise that not all of my reviews are going to be Sky Warrior books.  I even started the Friday Indie Review with Flicker last week, just to prove my point.  This one happens to be from my publisher, but I assure you I receive no kickback for reviewing Sky Warrior books.  That said, I know the rigorous process that Maggie Bonham puts books through, and you’re pretty likely to get a good product as a result.

Seven Exalted Orders is a shining example of this.

Fredericks sets up a power dynamic that is designed to be unstable.  She asks a serious question:  Magic being what it is, what keeps mages from just running things and enslaving people?  She then answers it with a society in which mages purposefully limit themselves in order to keep the power of magic in check.
The entire book is an exploration of power in all its forms.  Political power is weighed against military power and magical power, and the result is a fascinating dialogue with the reader.  What begins as a simple exploration of the world ends up as a question posed to the reader.  Fredericks presents the two polar extremes of the power struggle, and then leaves the reader feeling as though there really isn’t a good solution to the question.  Fredericks demonstrates the flaws in both the societies she presents; she does not try to present a perfect solution, and that makes the book wonderful.

By the time I put down Seven Exalted Orders, I ended up very much reminded of Winston Churchill’s description of Democracy:
“It’s the worst system in the world.  Except for all the others.”

Now, the book has its Persian flaw.  There’s a romance in there that happens very quickly, and I felt pretty whiplashed by it.  The characters needed to be in love for the rest of the story to work, and so they fall in love.  Their romance is important to the story, but it isn’t the raison d’etre of the story.  It’s rather clunkily thrown in at the front, and it feels like a bit of a break in the fourth wall as the characters go from fighting each other to a deep, passionate love.

Then again, our main character is a young man who’s been isolated away from women for a long time, so maybe it makes sense.
Anyways, while this was a bit of a jolt, it didn’t ruin the story.  Once that romance is in place, and it happens early, the rest of the story sails by, and leaves you really thinking about whether there is a solution better than the ones Fredericks has proposed.

I’m not sure there is, but if someone else thinks of one, please leave a comment.  This is the kind of book that starts great dinner party discussions.