Lynn, Elizabeth A.: Watchtower (Chronicles of Tornor I) (1979)

“Tornor Keep was dead and burning.

Ryke’s face was soot-stained, and his wrists were skinned raw where he had torn them twisting in his chains. His head ached.”

From this moment we are in the company of Ryke, a man who remains in a state of shock through the story. All of his friends, his leaders and his place in the world and loyalties have been torn from him. He thought he understood war, but he had never seen it from the side of the loser. War is much more brutal and bloody when you are not the winner. Why he has been kept alive when the rest of the Keep (excluding the women who were raped and kept on as chattel) was killed is a mystery to Ryke.

Then Col Istor (master of the invaders) shows him why. Errel, Prince of Tornor until the invaders took the keep, is still alive. Given a beating, but still alive. In return for keeping him that way, Ryke must pledge his service to Istor. Ryke gives the only pledge he feels capable of keeping. It is accepted.

“I’ll serve you,” he said, “with loyalty, as long as Errel’s left alone and unharmed.”

The Northern border is a land where the gap between male and female is immense. As is usual in such societies, women are meant for marriage, childbirth and possibly healing of the kind wise women did. Men, well, men. I am glad Elizabeth A Lynn wrote this book the way she did. Ryke’s prejudices are challenged. Lynn shows us that  prejudices do not necessarily change even when confronted with evidence and anecdotes. This has been my experience as well, and I find it just as frustrating as Sorren and Norres expressed.

“The other was unimportant. It happened to all women. In war you could not even call it rape.”

Ryke is used to being in “middle management”. He likes leadership, but only to a certain extent. Beyond that, he prefers having another person tell him what to do and, to a certain extent, what to think. Errel (Prince to Ryke) is supposed to fill that spot, but Errel is not willing to play along. He challenges Ryke to think for himself and to make his own choices. Ryke hates that. At times I have wanted people to choose for me. Often I wonder if that is the way most of us want the world to be. If others choose for us, perhaps we have less responsibility? But I would not choose to have Ryke’s fear of choice. In the end, neither would he.

Definitely recommended.

P.S: I have not been able to find a link to Elizabeth A. Lynn anywhere.

P.P.S: “The art of the chearis, as it is described, resembles in some aspects the Japanese martial art aikido, created by Master Morihei Uyeshiba. This imitation is deliberate. Writers must write what they know. In gratitude for that knowledge, the author respectfully wishes to thank her teachers.” (Dedication page)


1980 World Fantasy Award


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Watchtower is available on scribd.com


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