I picked up the only two books of the ‘Exiles’ trilogy while at a small market. I hadn’t heard of Melanie Rawn before, but the price for the two books together was a bargain. After I got home I looked up the series and realized it was meant to be a trilogy and has remained uncompleted for ~14 years. Honestly, if I’d known at the time that the trilogy was incomplete, and will likely remain that way, I wouldn’t have bought them. But since I had them I decided to give it a go.

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The story follows three mageborn sisters, Glenin, Sarra and Cailet after the destruction of their home of Ambrai by their father, Auvry Feiran. Auvry Feiran takes the eldest sister, Glenin, away from the city before its destruction, abandoning his wife and other daughters. The two younger sisters, Sarra and Cailet, spend their life in hiding, and eventually get involved with the Mage Guardians in a resistance against the government, while Glenin lives a life of luxury and joins the Lords of Malerris, another group of mages, and the enemy of the Mage Guardians.

The world of Lenfell is richly detailed, with many families and names, a long history and heaps of political intrigue that spans generations. Gender roles are completely reversed in this story, with inheritance of land, money and names occurring through women, and men being expected to stay home and look after the children. This reversal makes the world feel immediately foreign and familiar. The social structure, how it came about, and the attempts of Sarra to dismantle it (or parts of it), are examined from multiple different angles, and Rawn does a great job of capturing the complexity of these issues, and how different people can view the same issue in so many different ways.

The separation of the sisters, how Glenin gets turned to the Lords of Maleriss, how Sarra and Cailet deal with their father’s betrayal, and Cailet’s desire to reunite with her eldest sister, is one of the strongest parts of the story. The characters, even the secondary characters, are fleshed out deeply, and I cared for all of them, even Glenin. There are a lot of unanswered questions in the story however, including why Auvry Feiran turned against his home and family in the first place.

My favourite character was Collan, who is the first character introduced. The story starts by detailing the loss of Collan’s family and his life as a slave. Throughout this first section there are intriguing hints of what is to come, which kept me going through the next part of the story which introduced Glenin. My main difficulty with the next section was that a lot of names and places were introduced, and I didn’t initially realize that Glenin’s story didn’t start right after Collan’s, but somewhere in the middle. Once I figure that out, it all became much clearer. The next section introduces Sarra, and then Cailet.

After Collan is introduced, the story moves quite slowly, as Rawn sets up the characters and world of Lenfell. There is a big chunk of the middle where nothing much happens, and Sarra and the Rising (the resistance), spend a lot of time running away from people and not accomplishing anything. I enjoyed Rawn’s writing style and liked the characters enough that I could get through this section. Near the end is where everything comes together and things start happening. My major issue with the story however is this end section. The biggest part of the action, where the Rising actually accomplishes something, happens away from the reader. The three sisters are told about it after the fact and aren’t that involved in it. I didn’t actually see this big event coming, though if I go back and re-read the book I might see more foreshadowing.

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In the end, a lot of loose ends are tied up, however there are still a lot of unanswered questions. The next book, ‘The Mageborn Traitor’, doesn’t really answer any of the major questions of the first book. It provides more hints, but no answers. The story also starts off very slowly and doesn’t get going until near the end. I didn’t get as attached to the secondary characters in this book as much as in the first. In some ways, I think I could have just stopped reading after the first book. The second book doesn’t answer any questions, and it ends on much more of a cliff-hanger than the first book. I didn’t find it as interesting and exciting as the first book either.

Overall, I enjoyed Rawn’s writing style, the plot was deep and complicated and the characters felt real. It’s hard to recommend a series that is unfinished however. Considering how much I liked the first book though, I’d probably read more of her writing – as long as the series is already finished.

Also… Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!!!

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