The Cursed Towers
Kate Forsyth

This review appeared in Harbinger issue 4.

Cover US Cover 'The Cursed Towers' is the third book in the Witches of Eileanan quartet. This volume begins with Lachlan as the newly declared Ržgh and the Coven of Witches reinstated, returning to the old ways before the rule of Maya.

Having won his battle against Maya, Lachlanís troubles have only just begun. His newly won kingdom has been invaded by the Bright Soldiers of Tirsoilleir with the aid of Margrit of Arran. In addition to the invaders, his kingdom is on the brink of civil war. The Seekers of the Awl are fermenting a rebellion to try to depose him and install Bronwyn, his baby niece, on the throne.

Isabeau flees to the Cursed Towers and takes Bronwyn with her. While at the Towers of Roses and Thorns she learns about the history of the Coven from Feld and her mother, Ishbel. She also visits the Khanícohbans and learns from Iseultís, her twin sister, people.

While Isabeau is on the Spine of the World, Lachlan and his retinue fight to regain his kingdom in a war that lasts years. It is impossible to say more than this without giving away significant parts of the plot.

This is a book of epic proportions and spans a number of years. The dragons which were nearly absent from the second book have a resurgence of importance and prominence, while the Fairgean are relegated to the back seat. They are mentioned and do act in this book, but Maya and Bronwyn are the only named Fairgean. All the faery races that have been touched on in incidents in the earlier books are brought together and assume more prominent roles.

Although the book covers gigantic battles between armies of thousands, Kate manages to engage the reader by focusing on small knots of characters at different levels within the conflicts. Time is spent on the thoughts and deeds of the leaders of the armies, but time is also spent with a Tirsoilleirean soldier on sentry duty. This diversity of perspective gives an insight into the full scope of the battles raging through the book

The quartet began with Isabeau as the central character. That is not the case in this book. Isabeau is still a pivotal character in the book, but is on equal footing with Lachlan, Iseult, Meghan, Maya, Dide, Lilanthe and a host of others. All of these characters have much the same attention paid to them. To some this lack of a focal character may seem dissatisfying.

Kate gives the same attention to detail in this volume as she does in all the others. The writing is easy to read and creates a vivid picture. The battles are bloody and the celebratory feasts wild and joyous. The archaic speech patterns of the characters may annoy some people, but I found they gave the story a different feel to the majority of fantasy available on bookshelves. By the time Iíd finished reading the book I was occasionally adopting the mode of speech of the characters.

An interesting addition to this book that wasnít really preset in the first two is the inclusion of verse. Kate shows us her skill as a poet in various rhymes, chants and songs that have been included in the story. They are not merely thrown in just to be different, but are an integral part of the story and the characters that use them. It is primarily used for incantations and spells by the witches and adds handsomely to the magical quality of the magic performed.

'The Cursed Towers' is a pivotal point in the quartet. It brings Isabeauís journey to an end and reforms the whole political landscape of Eileanan. It has joy and sorrow, tranquillity and excitement. It has been a pleasure to read and Iíll be eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the Kateís saga.