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Bellarius sees how the second installment of Gav Thorpe’s Path of the Eldar holds up to analysis.
“A step backwards for every one forwards” – The Founding Fields
The one thing to truly keep in mind when reading Path of the Seer is this: Same story, different perspective. Rather than serving as a sequel to Path of the Warrior the book is instead set in the same timeframe, with the second of our merry trio of space elves, Thirianna, learning the ways of the seer. Interlinked at a number of distinct points with the last novel, we see her growth as a character and another facet of eldar existence through her eyes.
Thirianna herself is the biggest step up from the first of the trilogy for two distinct reasons. Unlike Korlandril, she is not so prone to overly emotional outbursts and petty selfishness which makes her hard to support. Furthermore, we see through her eyes a more unique aspect of the race: their precognition. The Path of the Warrior emphasised upon their history and age as a civilisation, while this one chiefly emphasises upon the future. Seeing how their kind view the interconnected web of events and potential futures, altering them to their advantage both on the battlefield and ensure their continued survival.
Above all the details of how the eldar view the future, cast their minds afar from their bodies and how it is utilised are ultimately its greatest strength. Broken up throughout the book, many of these experiences are used to flesh out the eldar one moment at a time. Slowly building up Thirianna’s abilities and displaying how their power is used in a myriad of different ways. Starting with shaping events on the battlefield itself, then exploring the webway beyond the craftworld before finally seeing glimpses of possible futures.
There is clearly a great amount more thought put into the evolution of Thirianna’s skills and her master’s teachings, as it feels as if she has forced herself to accomplish far more and had her abilities genuinely grow. This is also helped by the note that the eldar do still craft new weapons of war, runes and items rather than relying purely upon relics; an eyebrow raising detail Path of the Warrior ignored.
Many of the battles and moments give insights to the roles and duties of the seers, fleshing out the culture of the craftworld more in its own way. Often introducing them through either Thirianna’s actions or as a result of the craftworld’s missions. Some answering questions such as what happens to seers who betray their path.
As before however, when the book breaks away from examining the path itself things fall to bits.
While far more stable than Korlandril, Thirianna is incredibly prone to the same emotional outbursts and childishness. She behaves in a manner far younger and too human for her kind, and the drama itself is an ensemble of clichéd soap opera tropes. Thirianna’s conflict with her father is the height of this, playing out like an episode of Easterners and predictable to the point of boredom.
This is to say nothing of the predictability of the novel’s plot. While being set in the same timeframe and following the same series of events permits a new angle to follow, readers of the previous book also know many details of the plot. How events will play out, how battles will be fought and the ending twist are all things people will remember from the last book. As such a lot of the novelty of seeing things from a new perspective can easily be worn down by simple repetition.
The repetition of events themselves might not have been so bad a thing were it not for the lack of memorable characters. For all its flaws Path of the Warrior did at least have an ensemble of figures to work with alongside Korlandril himself, here we really only have the Farseer Kelamith as a constant presence. A character that does convey the mystery of the eldar well and presents the idea of their skills to a great degree, but lacks some details of character. Even if you do skip Path of the Warrior however, you’ll be left wondering about the sudden shifts in character and unseen developments of Korlandril. With the aspect warrior’s personality shifting from chapter to chapter.
As before, Path of the Seer is extremely hit or miss. Unlike before however, it’s slightly more the former than the latter, with an improved protagonist and somewhat more believable developments. Rather than as a story, it’s one better picked up as a fluff book to help give ideas for works. Avoid unless you’re looking for insights into the lives of the eldar.