My review of Battleaxe ’20th Anniversary Edition’ by Sara Douglass 9/10
How do you review a classic that has preserved for 20 years? The simple answer is you do not. You remind people of the quality of the work and the sense of the story that Sara Douglass gave us in the first of the Axis Trilogy. Battleaxe was and is still a steadfast epic fantasy novel, no less true now than when it was first released.
Battleaxe provides everything a fantasy reader needs and wants, evil seen and unseen, magic in a variety of forms both overt and obscure, a diversity of races, conflict open and hidden plus a love story, riddled with longing and obstacles.
The story follows a traditional pattern, hero unsure of his path on a journey of self discovery, a destroyer whose own hated does not just consume himself but everything around him, friends and betrayers walk a course of ruin or salvation in a land gripped by winter and madness. You can not really ask for more.
When my review copy arrived, courtesy of the wonderful Jess at Harper Collins AU, I really loved the look of the book, it was simple but elegant, a perfect cover for the 20th Anniversary Edition. Sitting my old, well read paperback (with its image of Axis raising his axe high in the air and Gorgrael behind him) side by side with the new edition I would be hard pressed to say which I liked better… perhaps my original but it does get sentimental bonus points.
I have been a fan of Sara Douglass’s work for many years and have read the Axis trilogy quite a few times. It has been a few years since my last read and even now, after all this time and multiple reads, it is still a magnificent tale written wonderfully. There is a simplicity of the characters and world that captivates and shines. Not simple in words, but clear in vision and promise to the reader. Douglass delivers strong emotion from all the characters as they evolve and take on the challenges placed before them. Pride, wrath, love, joy, trust and devolution, each one jumping off the page making you connect with each personality in your own way. Next to Axis, Belial is my favourite character.
There is a reason classics are timeless – they energise and captivate, bringing the reader back for more, time and time again. Sara Douglass’s Battleaxe sits up there with the great epic fantasy books of the last 30 to 40 years, easily holding its own against the likes of Tad Williams’ The Dragonbone Chair, Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara and Raymond Feist’s Magician. If you have never read Battleaxe, do so now, you won’t regret the decision.
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