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The Phoenix Unchained by Mercedes Lackey
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The Phoenix Unchained (2007)

by Mercedes Lackey, James Mallory

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  1. 10
    The Phoenix Endangered by Mercedes Lackey (GT-M)
  2. 10
    The Outstretched Shadow ~ To Light a Candle ~ When Darkness Falls (The Obsidian Trilogy) by Mercedes Lackey (jillsmyth)
    jillsmyth: These books are set in the same world as The Phoenix Unchained and contain the events of Kellen and Idalia.
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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

I picked up The Phoenix Unchained, the first novel in The Enduring Flame trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory because I haven't read Lackey before (and I wanted to) and this book was available on audiobook (and I needed something for my commute). The Phoenix Unchained is a sequel to The Obsidian Trilogy which, unfortunately, is not available (yet) on audio, and which I haven't read. However, I had heard that this new trilogy can stand alone, so I decided to give it a try.

The Phoenix Unchained begins as best friends Tiercel and Harrier are attending their city's celebrations of legendary events that happened in The Obsidian Trilogy. It's also Harrier's birthday and, as a gift, his strange uncle gives him a book about magick which Tiercel asks to borrow. Tiercel soon finds that he has some magick abilities and catches the attention of a Wild Mage named Bisochim who is far away but wants to make sure that Tiercel does not disrupt his plans for allowing some dark magick back into the world so that he can save the life of Saravasse, the dragon he's bonded to. Tiercel begins to have bad dreams, so he sets out with Harrier to find a Wild Mage who can help him.

What follows is a standard coming-of-age epic fantasy quest involving lots of slow travel, several magical creatures (centaurs, unicorns, dragons, goblins, elves, fauns, etc), and a lot of sarcastic bickering such as teenage boys tend to engage in. The Phoenix Unchained is not high literature, for sure, but it's solidly written, and the heroes are likeable, if not particularly exciting. There are, however, several borrowings from Tolkien and others (gosh, the elves look just like Legolas!) and some explanations and motivations are vague or unbelievable: Why doesn't Bisochim just go after Tiercel himself instead of sending spells or lackeys--sorry--who don't get the job done? When and why did Bisochim and his dragon fall in love (we see this happen, but I wasn't convinced)? How will letting in some darkness extend the life of Saravasse and why is Bisochim (who started off well) willing to let a lot of people die in order to do that? And if he has this potential for evil, why does Saravasse love him? Is Tiercel the only human with high mage powers, as the elves suggest, or is High Magick a skill that many people may be born with (as Tiercel says).

The plot is not particularly tight, and it's hardly original. Nonetheless, I found myself decently entertained and, since there was a major plot-twist/cliffhanger on the last page, I'm curious to see where the story is going. I may or may not go back and read The Obsidian Trilogy first. Lackey and Mallory give enough background and history that I easily understood what was going on and the basics (I thought) of the history I needed to know. However, I found out later in the book, once the boys meet some very ancient characters, that some of the legends that had been passed down for 1000 years where amusingly inaccurate. I missed this humor because I wasn't familiar with the original trilogy. I probably missed some other information that may have helped inform or entertain me, too. For example, what is a mage price? How does this magic work? Is a "balance" between light and dark necessary (as Bisochim maintains)? What is the "phoenix" mentioned in the title?

The Phoenix Unchained is recommended for anyone looking for a "lite" escapist fantasy epic. The audiobook is a good format for this one -- William Dufris's reading is dynamic and well-nuanced, though occasionally whiny as he depicts typical teenage angst.
Read more Mercedes Lackey book reviews at Fantasy literature. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
I got really excited when I read the back of this book,as it appeared to address one of my personal pet peeves - that "restoring the balance of the universe" always seems to mean "good slaughters evil." (Don't get me started about Star Wars.) This is the first book in the trilogy, so I'm not disappointed yet, but I may yet be. Philosophical points aside, this is a solid fantasy in the fairly traditional mages-dragons-elves-oh-my vein. ( )
  JeremyPreacher | Mar 30, 2013 |
Tiercel and Harrier (hmm - hunting birds; any significance?) are best friends from very different families in the ancient city of Armenthalieh in a world where most magical races have retired from human affairs. When Tiercel starts getting visions which threaten the safety of the people around him, the two boys decide to journey to the Temple of Light at Sentershadan to seek answers.

There is a Balance in the world between light and dark, which is maintained by Wild Mages. In the remotest desert, a powerful Wild Mage has been seduced by the dark, and the Balance of the world has been disturbed. This is the beginning of the story as the light prepares to restore the Balance.

I haven't read anything of James Mallory's but this was a bit different from what I've read of Mercedes Lackey's work recently ('The Collegium Chronicles'). This is the first book in their 'The Enduring Flame' trilogy, which takes place centuries after 'The Obsidian Trilogy' by the same writers. Not having read the first series, I didn't feel at a loss, though I did occasionally wonder how the 'legend' matched up to the story; maybe I'll read it sometime and find out.

I'd say it's more a YA story, though it wasn't classified as such. I knew the protagonists were young men, but I didn't realise they were supposed to be 16 years old until near the end. Some of the characterisations were slightly clichéd; dragons have barbed tails, elves have Tolkienesque names, and the occasional death in the story is passed over quite lightly. On the whole, it was a pleasant, light read.

( )
  humouress | Jul 24, 2012 |
Spoilers ahead. Well, not in my opinion, but I figure I’ll hedge my bets just in case.

I recently picked up an audiobook copy of The Phoenix Unchained by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory from my local library. I’d never heard of either author, but my friend Ruben asked me to read and review more fantasy, and who am I to turn down such a request? After all, some of my first reading loves were Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms fantasy schtick. Sure, I thought. It’ll be fun—an opportunity to get back to my literary roots. What could go wrong?

A lot, it turns out. It only took a few chapters for me to remember why I stopped reading formulaic fantasy bullcrap in the first place. Not to say all fantasy is formulaic bullcrap. I don’t think that at all (and for proof you can see my review of The Chronicles of the Black Company). It’s just that… well, why don’t I tell you a little bit about the plot first and you can see for yourself.

The Phoenix Unchained is the first book of The Enduring Flame trilogy, a sequel to Lackey’s earlier series, The Obsidian Trilogy, which is set roughly a millennium prior to the events in The Phoenix Unchained. Back in the original trilogy a band of heroes vanquished a race of evil creatures known as the Endarkened (this world’s version of the big bad evildoers), ushering in “The Great Flowering” which created an era of peace and prosperity that has lasted for centuries. Since that time the heroes and their exploits have become myths to themselves. Their stories have been told and retold until they have become interwoven with the fabric of the land’s cultural identity.

Enter Tiercel and Harrier, a pair of teenage friends who live the port city of Armathalea. Harrier is the portmaster’s son. Tiercel is the son of an assistant magistrate and a bookworm of the first order. Tiercel accidentally learns that he has the ability to perform “High Magic,” a form of magic that has been dead since the events in The Obsidian Trilogy, but he can’t control it and almost burns his house down as a result. He also becomes sick, and, in order get him better again, the two boys decide to head off on an overland trek to the next city over in order to find a “Wild Mage” to cure him.

Sounds reasonable enough, right? Sure! But then I listened to the last 3/4 of the book, and I wanted to beat my head against the steering wheel until I couldn’t hear anything for all the blood streaming out of my ears. I didn’t do that, though. I persevered. After all, how could I write an accurate review without experiencing the horror to its fullest effect? It’s my sworn duty, you know.

So in the course of their trip the boys meet several personalities who point further and further along an increasingly arduous path. Eventually they learn that there really isn’t a way for Tiercel to be cured of the High Magic after all. He has to learn to use the magic, but since everyone who knew how to use High Magic has been dead for a thousand years, the only place he can go to learn it is the Elven Lands (where the elves withdrew to shortly after the great flowering—helloooooo Tolkein!). They also learn that the Endarkened are coming back thanks to the efforts of a corrupted Wild Mage out in the desert somewhere. So off they go to the Elven Lands, helped along by a magic portal and a dragon (who just so happens to be the same dragon that populates their heroic myths) where they learn that the elves know what’s going on but they won’t help because they don’t want to “point him in the wrong direction.” Whatever that means. Then a couple great Elven heroes sacrifice their lives to allow Tiercel to bond with a dragon and get access to awesome high mage powers, and then it’s time to go to the desert to confront the evil brewing there. Oh yeah, and along the way, Harrier finds out that he’s a Knight Mage (whatever the hell that is) so that he doesn’t feel left out of the magical power circle jerk.

Ugh. Even regurgitating that mess was exhausting. So where do I begin? Well, my main gripe is that, except for a brief battle with some goblins in an abandoned town, the main characters do absolutely nothing. I mean, yeah, they do stuff, but none of it is of consequence, they never solve their own problems, and they just plod along the path that has been laid out for them, collecting new and wonderful powers along the way. They’re passive characters. They don’t do anything; everything is done to them (and even that is few and far between). It’s kinda like Bella Swan from Twilight, and it’s enough to make me wanna puke.

The story is also a repackaged version of the Hero’s Journey. You know, the archetypal pattern that’s been used for hero stories for time immemorial? Star Wars follows the Hero’s Journey model. So do Ender’s Game and Eragon and much older myths like that of Osiris and Prometheus. Hell, scholars have even argued that the story of Christ is a form of the Hero’s Journey. That said, it’s not an inherently bad thing to tell a story in this model. It’s survived for so long because there’s something in our chemical makeup that resonates to that tune across the centuries. But if you’re going to go that route, for God’s sake, mix it up a little bit. Change some details. Don’t make it so bleeding obvious. Don’t have your main characters realize they are the heirs to long-dead magical powers (a la the Force) or have mages get their powers from bonding with dragons (screw you, Eragon!). And for the love of Pete, do elves always have to be better than everyone else in every imaginable way possible? Argh!

Lastly, there’s the whole premise of the setting in general. There’s been a thousand year pax romana ever since the Endarkened were sent to hell, and during that time there hasn’t been one war or rebellion or breakaway republic or, hell, anything. Technology has remained static, and the system of government hasn’t changed one iota. Come on! Really? Everybody just decided to get along and live in peace and harmony because the big-bads were sent packing? That’s just asinine.

On the flip side of the coin, the writing was pretty decent. It wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was at least more competent than most. Lackey and Mallory also did an admirable job developing the characters of Tiercel and Harrier. Of course, they should have, seeing as how the character interactions between the two of them had to carry the book (since nothing else of happened most the time). There were also a few instances in which they made some interesting changes to the typical fantasy tropes, such as with their brand of goblins and the crunchy bits of the magic system they used.

In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to save the book for me. Like I said, I only persevered because… well, that’s what I do. The Phoenix Unchained was lackluster, reheated fantasy, and I give it two stars. Some people might enjoy it, but I didn’t.

http://readabookonce.blogspot.com/2012/02/phoenix-unchained-by-mercedes-lackey.h... ( )
1 vote WillyMammoth | Feb 17, 2012 |
Well, I did like this one in the end. It took awhile to get into it though. The story takes place 1,000 years after the Obsidian Trilogy. Many of the characters of the first book have become legendary. It also brings a bit of a smile to your face when some might pop up later in the novel.

Tiercel would have a life as a city magistrate of the great city of Armethalieh. His best friend, Harrier, would be eventually harbor master, or at least apprenticed to learn the ropes. What happens is a huge change of fate, and the book tells of how that happens. It all starts with Tiercel reading a book that Harrier gets for his birthday. As a result, the old ways of High Magic start to be revealed to him. This leads to a grand journey to find answers.

It was refreshing to return to the world of the Obsidian Trilogy. I've ordered the next two books of this trilogy through Amazon for my Kindle. Looking forward to reading them. ( )
  Tiffmeister | Jun 24, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mercedes Lackeyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mallory, Jamesmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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To Diogenes, my constant companion --JM
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It was Festival Sennight in Armethalieh, and even though spring was sennights away, the entire city was garlanded in flowers of every kind.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 076535506X, Mass Market Paperback)

Young Tiercel Rolfort is studying Ancient History.  When his reading reveals a system of High Magic he has never heard of before, Tyr tries to cast a spell . . . and sets his bedroom on fire. 

Harrier Gillain, son of the Harbormaster, has been hauling Tyr out of scrapes since he was three years old.  When Tyr decides to seek help from the Elves, Harrier knows he’ll have to go along and make sure Tyr doesn’t burn down the whole forest. 

Wild Mage Bisochim has discovered that the Balance between Light and Dark has shifted too far toward the Light.  He chooses to return Darkness to the world—a delicate and dangerous undertaking.  To the Mage’s shock, his first attempt at conjuring Darkness is thwarted.  Bisochim now has not only a mission, but an Enemy.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:37 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

After a millennium of peace in which much Magick has vanished from the world, Bisochim, a powerful Wild Mage, launches a campaign to reintroduce Darkness into the world.

» see all 3 descriptions

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