My #SeriesSaturday (hosted by P.S. I Love that Book) submission is Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy, comprising of Range of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars, and Steles of the Sky.
The Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear is one of the most criminally underrated series in fantasy. It’s well-written, well-paced, epic in every sense of the word, and it’s so different from standard fantasy fare. It doesn’t take place in medieval Europe, it’s not dominated by male or white characters, it explores various types of personal truths (polyamory, gender roles, etc) without getting preachy….it’s just really awesome.
Principally it’s the story of Temur and Samarkar, but it’s scope extends to four (and one otherworldly) kingdoms, and really wonderful supporting characters. In this world, the skies tell you which kingdom and whose reign you find yourself under. When we meet Temur on the battlefield, he’s tracking the line of succession and his place in it by how many moons have disappeared in the sky. Though the battle leaves him as the heir to the Khaganate, he knows his bloodthirsty cousin is too powerful. He chooses exile for now, meets and loves and loses Edene, and crosses paths with Samarkar. Samarkar is from the Citadel of Tserepeth, an ex-princess who gave up her womb to become a wizard. She and Temur set out together, alongside amazing secondary characters, to install him as Khagan, find and free Edene, and uncover who is trying to control the fate of the world through an evil, sorcerous cult.
I loved so much about this series. I loved its sensitive exploration of polyamory, the women of the steppe, the Islam-themed religion of the Scholar-God (who is female!), the evil sorcerer’s cult, Edene’s otherwordly experiences, all of it. I feel like the author managed to portray fantasy-versions of several regions and religions without making any of them seem demonized or like charicatures. She made them seem so real, with good and bad.
There are so many unique and exciting things Bear does with Eternal Sky, I can’t list them all. I’m going to link to the Tor.com reviews that turned me onto the series a while back in case you want a more in-depth, book-by-book exploration of what makes the series stand-out. Now that I’m writing my own book reviews I definitely need to revisit this series.
Liz Bourke’s take on the series,”Wings Gleaming Like Beaten Bronze: Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky Trilogy” on Tor.com.