Researcher (Special Class) S. iso Fabold, from the National Department of Exploration of the conquering nation Kell, has come to the Isles of Glory. His project is to discover what he can about its history and beliefs. As part of that mission, he interviews Blaze Halfbreed. It is her story we hear in The Aware. Fabold comments on Blaze’s story at regular intervals. I don’t particularly like Fabold. I find him an annoying, misogynistic git.
Blaze takes us back 50 years to a time before the Change, when magic was known. She telles us of her third visit to the Island of Gorthan Spit. Gorthan Spit is the place where those who have no where else to go end up. Blaze calls it a:
middenheap for unwanted human garbage and the dregs of humanity; a cesspit where the Isles of Glory threw their living sewerage: the diseased, the criminals, the mad the halfbreeds, the citizenless. Without people, Gorthan Spit would have been just an inhospitable finger of sand under a harsh southern sun; with them it was a stinking island hell.
Halfbreeds (children of two people from different islands) seldom survive to adulthood. None of the Isles of Glory wish to admit such children exist. Citizenship is only for the purebred. Usually, halfbreeds are abandoned as soon as their mixed background becomes apparent. Blaze, herself grew up
on the streets of the Hub with a group of other outcasts, mainly children of varying ages. Our home was the old graveyard on Duskset hill, where once upon a time the wealthy of the city had buried their dead in tombs above the ground. The place was ancient, the tombs neglected. They made good hiding places, fine home for a pack of feral street kids with no money and no respectability and, in my case, no history or citizenship.
That childhood, her later tutelage by the Menod and her treatment and training by Keepers laid the groundwork for the kind of adult Blaze Halfbreed became. What she learned was that if she wanted to be looked after Blaze was the one who had to do the looking. No one else could be trusted. And she is fine with that. She has no illusions about being some kind of wonderful person who needs to save her world. That she happens to become a pivot is due to Blaze being in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.
Sometimes life is like that. Very few people get to become pivots upon which the fate of the world rests. Choices are made at such times that may or may not change the immediate course of history. Long-term very little changes where humans are involved.
I particularly appreciated a few scenes in The Aware. There is an amputation sequence that takes us through the process. Part of that process is letting us know what chance and amputation patient should have had somewhere like Gorthan Spit. There is also an explanation of how a woman like Blaze would be able to handle a two-handed sword for a longer period of time. There is her size, strength, training and practice. In addition the steel of her sword is more refined and therefore a little lighter than the regular ones of that time. Only blood-debts would get you such a sword if you were not from Calmeter. But Blaze needs to take better care of her weapons.
There was plenty of action, an explanation of the magic, a good description of how the Islands worked politically and practically and good character development.