A Man Rides Through by Stephen R. Donaldson
Del Rey, 1st mass-market printing, 1987
Warning! Spoiler Alert! This is the second of a two volume set, and in order to say anything about the plot, I will by necessity be revealing things left … unrevealed in the earlier review of The Mirror of Her Dreams.
Synopsis & Review: Following the decidedly intense cliffhanger at the end of The Mirror of Her Dreams, A Man Rides Through finds Geraden missing, Nyle possibly dead, Master Eremis vindicated before the Congery, Orison’s water poisoned while the castle is besieged by the Alend army, and Terisa fast in the clutches of Castellan Lebbick, a man far more likely to rape or murder her than listen to her. No one in Orison seems to believe Terisa that Geraden did not murder (or attempt to murder) his brother Nyle, not even their own brother Artagel. No one that is, but the mad Adept Havelock and his ineffectual sidekick Master Quillon. The two engineer Terisa’s escape from the dungeons with both the Castellan and the renegade Master Gilbur in hot pursuit. In order to save herself, Terisa must not only accept her power, but demonstrate it, and she does at long last, finding herself in the Care of the Domne with Geraden. Houseldon is no safe haven, however, as Eremis unleashes monstrosities of Imagery upon the town in hopes of killing Terisa and Geraden. Instad of hiding, they must escape and warn all of Mordant against him, raising support for King Joyce until the final confrontation of Imagery and Cadwal’s armies.
A Man Rides Through finally fulfills the promises of The Mirror of Her Dreams, as Terisa begins to understand and own her power, and finally becomes a major player in the battle for Mordant. While still violent, the violence directed toward Terisa is aimed at preventing her from exercising her power, which ought to put to rest notions of misogyny in this work by Donaldson. All the puzzles that began coming together in the last volume are completed in this one, and so adroitly that one never questions the author–an exercise of talent many genre authors do not possess. The pace is faster in this volume as all the schemes are unraveled, and the atmosphere is entirely different, and far less claustrophobic, as almost all of the action takes place outside of Orison. Where TMoHD was close and contained, AMRT sprawls throughout the countryside. Instead of challenges between individuals or small handfuls of people, here we find armies battling and cities being destroyed.
As in TMoHD, there is a quicksilver thread of humor running through A Man Rides Through, ranging from the scatological to the ironic or poignant. Donaldson never beats you about the head with it, but demonstrates a fine appreciation for the absurd. All over, it might be even better than The Mirror of Her Dreams.
Cover: Not quite as good as the last volume’s. This one finds Gilbur staring through a mirror as Terisa and Geraden in the Domne. Terisa’s rather impractical dress is somewhat distracting.
A sick feeling rose in her stomach as she saw Havelock hunch forward with conspiratorial glee; his eyes nearly gyrated in opposite directions, rapacious and loony. He crooked a finger at her, summoning her near, as if he wanted to tell her a secret.
She didn’t move; nevertheless he reacted as if she had come closer to him.
“I have seen an Image,” he whispered, “an Image, and Image. In which the women are peculiar. Their tits are on their backs. Because of this, they look very strange. But it must be delightful to embrace them.”
Grinning, he concluded, “He came to me and commanded. Commanded. What could I do? I don’t know how to beg.” His manner didn’t change, yet without transition his tone turned fierce. “I have said it and said it. Hop-board pieces are men. Women make everything impossible.”
06 June – 10 June