The Dark Defiles completes Morgan’s A Land for Heroes fantasy series. It continues his earlier themes of the hero as outcast/outsider/Other, and fittingly it wraps up in a not-at-all-wrapped-up way.
- I think that the way this ends shows just how difficult what Morgan’s trying to do actually is. We don’t get resolutions, of any sort really, with both Ringil and Archeth not taking the path expected (in any sort of way). In fact, I’m not really sure *how* it ended…Gil walking down to meet a thousand angry dwenda seems certain to lead to his death, and Archeth wandering into a completely changed capital without taking charge somehow seem almost like betrayals of the rules of fantasy (which I’m guessing is part of Morgan’s point).
- I’m assuming that we can read Gil in a couple of ways – he either goes to replace the Source (the creepy crossroads dude) or he finally controls his own fate, although there are other possibilities.
- I’m still unclear about Archeth’s ending. I’m guessing she can be read as an anti-hero of sorts, because she refuses to take on the mantle of emperor that is offered her (especially by the machines created by her own race), but that seems a cop-out in ways that I don’t want to accuse Morgan of perpetrating.
- The presence of both gods and aliens shows Morgan’s interest in the role that origin stories have in fantasy. Using the gods and the grey places is an easy approach – this is where we come from, duh – but bringing in the alien race adds another dimension. We suddenly aren’t sure of any of these origins – I found myself wondering if the gods were aliens too…
- Ringil’s rejection of the world around him, one that despises him for his sexual identity, lends an interesting twist to the standard fantasy plot. I always wonder about the hero’s motivation (a curiosity completely satiated by the Adjunct in the MBOTF), and in this it’s pretty clear. Morgan spends a lot of time inside characters’ heads, and the payoff is that the anger and hatred that Gil feels (and his empathy with other oppressed people) is believable.
Morgan’s series was worth the read. Granting agency to LGBTQ characters is good – attributing realistic motives to them, and not making them into synecdoches of sweetness and light, is even better. There are other stories to tell in this world, and I hope that Morgan will do just that.