Year of Publication: 1999
Summary: This is the last book in the Four Quarters series, but as each book has a different set of main characters, it’s not as important to have read the other books in the series (which I haven’t). In a fantasy world, bards have varying degrees of power related to the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. It’s rare for a bard to be able to only “sing,” or control, one “quarter,” or element. Benedikt can only sing water, but he is extremely powerful. However, he feels like he is handicapped by his inability to sing air — as every other bard can — and thus is an outsider among the other bards. When the queen of the land asks for a bard to volunteer for a dangerous exploratory expedition, Benedikt eagerly presents himself. Unfortunately, the ship sinks in a storm and Benedikt finds himself the sole survivor, stranded in a strange land with strange and sometimes savage customs. Apparently, the bard gift is unheard of there, and so he finds himself a pawn in a power struggle between two rival siblings, each of whom might just as easily kill him as protect him.
Thoughts: Decent writing and a fairly well-crafted fantasy world, as well as some nicely fleshed-out characters, made this an entertaining read. The main weakness was a victim of the plot — the action moved around too much. About 1/3 of the way through the book, the main character is transplanted to an entirely new environment, and the cast of supporting characters pretty much changes completely, as the action moves from Benedikt’s homeland to strange shores. There’s not enough time to get to know or care about the supporting characters, and the main character is, honestly, difficult to like. He’s basically a whiny bitch most of the time.
The romance was also pretty weak. The main love interest, Bannon, only meets Benedikt a few times, and they do little more than exchange a few words. Bannon is absent for most of the book and barely knows Benedikt, and yet we are supposed to believe that he crossed an uncharted ocean to rescue a dude he talked to twice? Maybe if you’ve read the other books in the series and already know Bannon as a character, this all makes sense. It’s not that I didn’t like the characters or the story — I did; it was just frustrating that there wasn’t more to it.