I finished Trudi Canavan’s Priestess of the White last night. This is Book One of her “Age of the Five” trilogy. I need to say right up front that I enjoyed it, because some of my comments might sound negative.
People in this world are essentially divided into 3 factions. The Circlians rule in the north, The Pentadrians rule in the south, and The Dreamweavers are a kind of gypsy-healer group that live scattered throughout the world. Both the Circlians and the Pentadrians have their own set of five gods that they worship. The Dreamweavers worship no gods.
As the story begins, the Circlians and Pentadrians are at odds, based primarily on their respective religious beliefs. The Circlians consider the Dreamweavers heathens and have forbid their people from using the healing skills of them. The Pentadrians, we are told, accept the Dreamweavers. The book focuses on events happening in the Circlian half of the world, with some attention devoted to the stress between Circlians and Dreamweavers.
Have you noticed I’ve yet to name a character? Despite its title, Priestess of the White is not a character-driven story. The major events of the book revolve around the Circlians securing allies against the Pentadrians while the latter prepare for war. I sometimes found myself thinking of the book as a kind of narrative strategy wargame, just imagining the maps color-coded based on which group was in control, and arrows showing troop movements. Now I enjoy this kind of thing, so that was OK with me. Your mileage may vary.
Another thing this book doesn’t have is a set of clear good guys and bad guys. Perhaps my personal belief system is coloring my perception here, but neither the Circlians nor the Pentadrians seemed like ‘good guys’ to me. The Dreamweavers did, but they’re more of a foil (at least in this volume) than a major player. We only meet a handful of Dreamweavers by the end of the story.
Obviously there are characters in the book and they have their adventures, but while I found this interesting, I didn’t find myself really caring that much about them. They were more a conduit of information to me than individuals that popped off the page. (The one exception was a sorceress who had her own plot line that I found pretty engaging.) There is forbidden love and there is betrayal and there are heroics, but I didn’t really *feel* any of this in my heart, if you get my meaning.
All of this makes it sound like I didn’t like the book, and I did. Canavan has built a fascinating world, and the fact that I’m not sure what is going to happen next (I have my suspicions, but I wouldn’t want to bet money on them) has me eager to start the next book. Priestess of the White also stands pretty well on its own, so if you try it but don’t like it enough to buy the rest in the series, you’re not going to be left totally hanging with no closure. I give this one 3 out of 5 elder gods.