Dark Age quest for redemption & Renaissance quest for truth (4/5)
The Road to Corlay
opened with a prologue with a romantic overview of how the Kinship was
born. The remainder of the novel presented the noble beginnings of the
cult and how a telepathic time traveler influenced the lover of the
famous piper. The second book, A Dream of Kinship,
showcased the history of the cult through the eyes of the son born from
the piper and his lover, an auspicious boy with a talent for the lute.
Still in the year 3038 A.D., book three follows this boy after he leaves
the archipelago of England for a European journey after denouncing his
Rear cover synopsis:
"Twenty years have passed
since the martyrdom of the Boy-piper at York, twenty years in which his
legacy, the movement of Kinship, has challenged the tyranny of the
Church Militant in Britain's seven island kingdoms. Now his namesake,
Tom, bearing the Boy's own pipes and perhaps himself imbued with the
spirit of the White Bird, in wandering Europe in company with the girl,
Witchet. But disaster overtakes them and Tom, in a fury of vengeance,
breaks his vow of Kinship. A Terrible path lies before him, one that
transcends his own world. As he travels it, Tom must come to understand
the true nature of the wild White Bird, of The Bride of Time and her
Child, and of the Song the Stat Born sang."
There are two parts
of this book. The first 114 pages follows Tom and Witchet as they
traverse Spain, France, and Italy by themselves and with troupes of
traveling actors. Befriended by a family of actors, the duo ply their
art of lute-playing and singing, which enchant the crowds and earn the
troupe much income. When word comes of highway robbers, they hire
security for their caravan, only to lose them in a storm and come
unexpectedly upon the robbers, who masquerade as shepherds. Defenseless,
the bandits attack the troupe and leave them without transportation.
Deciding to head north, the duo detach from the troupe in order to
reconnect with friends and family.
The second part of this book
is a 142-page journal entry and post-script from the years 3798-3799
A.D., nearly eight hundred years after the founding of the religion of
the Kinship. With Europe, and especially England, now flourishing in an
industrial era, historical studies of the Kinship can be undertaken with
academic intensity. Professor Robert James Cartwright and his history
studies colleague Margaret Coley attend mass on New Years eve.
Afterwards, the two witness a mystery which they hesitate to calla a
"miracle." Studiously, the two separately retell the event on paper and
compare notes. They concur that the child that Margaret caught did,
indeed, disappear from her very hands. Only when Cartwright begins to
see an apparition of a bearded man does he attach significance to the
chance miracle. The soon-to-be-betrothed couple seek out an ancient
manuscript which they hope will shed light on some historical facts
regarding the characters in the White Bird tales.
The first part
following Tom and Witch was unlike anything in the first two books, this
half cast a dark shadow on the plot with scenes of violence and
pestilence; it very much had a Dark Ages feel to it. This contrasts the
"second Renaissance" in the last half, where universities have sprung
up, where steamships navigate the English isles and telephone service
has made a comeback. This is a time when the Catholic church is known,
but the nearly universal Kinsmen religion has become more organized,
straying from its humble birth as a workingman's personal ethic.
two halves (3038 and 3799 A.D.) have their respective quests: Tom has a
quest to save the soul of his dead lover while attempting to redeem or
ignore the souls of two recently departed wrong-doers. The quest takes
place in a parallel reality which Tom is sure exists purely within
himself. This fantastical realm is occupied by spirits but maintains the
same geography wherever Tom is. The second quest is the last half is an
academic pursuit of delving into ancient papers while correlating
facts, matching dates, interviewing locals, and tracking down a relic.
The spiritual fantasy quest is an odd countenance to the European trek
and strays from the prior books' humble beginnings. The quest for the
truth and relic, however, is exciting from its far-future perspective
during the second Renaissance.
You've got to give credit to
Richard Cowper for one thing, besides his romantic writing and
intelligent plot structure, and that is he is aware of his limitations,
as he writes in the author's notes:
"[...] in any sequence of
novels a point is arrived at when the author becames [sic] painfully
aware that there is a limit to the amount of background information
which he can hope to incorporate in each successive book without
grievously restricting the flow of his narrative." (9)
books of the White Bird of Kinship trilogy are all inclusive and Cowper
was wise not to prolong the series, selling out to produce a never
ending stream of loosely linked novels in the same universe. You can
start with book one knowing that at the end of book three, there is a
satisfying conclusion which leaves the reader with a sense of piqued
curiosity and awe.
Beyond the Kinship trilogy, look into his humor with Profundis. This is one author I'm eager to research more and more into until I exhaust his entire bibliography... next I have Clone and Out There Where the Big Ships Go.