Saturday, January 31, 2015
Summer King, Winter Fool
By Lisa Goldstein
Valemar is a young courtier in the court of King Gobro of Etrara. Valemar doesn't have much on his mind besides poetry, courtliness and his standing in the court. His king, Gobro, is not well liked or respected, dismissed as a fat fool.
The people of Valemar's world worship a trinity of gods, Sbona, the mother and her two sons, Callabrion and Scathiel. When Callabrion descends to the world, winter begins and Scathiel ascends to heaven. Then when Callabrion ascends to heaven, Scathiel descends and summer begins. This is how they mark the changing of the seasons. Only this winter, something has gone wrong. The festival of Callabrion's ascension has been celebrated at the proper time but the days are not growing longer, they are growing shorter and coldness rules the land. The people grow uneasy and worried, fearful of famine.
Narrion, like Valemar, is a young courtier in Gobro's court. But unlike Valemar, Narrion's mind is full of plots and intrigues. Acting on Gobro's orders, Narrion tricks Valemar into leaving Etrara and going to Tobol An. Valemar believes his life is in danger and he agrees to hide in Tobol An. There he meets the woman in charge of the huge library of Tobol An, Taja. Taja thinks she is just a peasant woman who runs the library, but she is actually a powerful poet mage, she just doesn't know it yet.
Valemar, like Taja, thinks he is just a courtier. But he is really the true heir to the throne of Etrara, which is why Gobro wanted him out of Etrara. Whether this was to protect him or because he was a threat to Gobro's throne, whatever Gobro's intentions were doesn't matter because Gobro is soon dead, killed by his sister Callia, who takes the throne. Gobro was a spendthrift and Callia's rule is bankrupt. So she declares war on neighboring Shai, hoping to gain its riches for her own.
Valemar, back from Tobol An, takes up arms in the war against the Shai and ends up captured. The war goes badly for Etrara and it is overrun by the Shai, who rule with an iron fist. Rumors begin to circulate throughout Etrara of a rightful heir to the throne who will lead them to freedom. The Shai, eager to susspress these hopes, begin to search for Valemar. And Valemar, escaping from captivity, thinks that maybe it is time for him to assume his proper role as king.
Meanwhile, Callabrion has still not ascended and the days continue to shorten and darkness and cold rule the land. Soon it won't matter who is king, if summer never comes.
This was an OK story. It never really captured my interest and I found the idea of the three gods who are real beings who walk among the people not very appealing or believable. Actually, the whole story was kind of like that, with details that just didn't feel true or real. It was more like a story of a dream than a story of a real place, with real people, events and history.
For another review, see https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lisa-goldstein/summer-king-winter-fool/.