Published by Tor
Author Web site: http://www.sff.net/people/john-c-wright/
In Fugitives of Chaos, John C. Wright continues the tale of Amelia Windrose, the orphan who began conveying her story in Orphans of Chaos. With the cliffhanger ending in the previous volume, Wright picks up without missing a beat. One suspects the story was meant for one book rather than three, a trend many publishers are taking in these times.
Back to the story, Amelia is actually Phaethusa, daughter of the sun god Helion. Along with four other children of gods, Ameliea is imprisoned in a boarding-school/prison. At the opening of Fugitives, Amelia is waking from the failed escape she and her friends attempted at the conclusion of Orphans. Amelia can see objects in four dimensions, allowing her to see and project the true nature of living things and objects. Her fellow ‘students’ are a warlock (Quentin), a thinker (Victor), an opener of passages (Vanity), and a boy (Colin) whose power comes from dreams and dreamworld. Keen readers made their way through Wright’s Space Opera trilogy, The Golden Age, might notice some similarities in names between characters.
While labeled a fantasy novel, the characters attempt to explain their powers, the powers of gods, and the magical school they inhabit through quantum physics and other scientific methods. This was a nice trick Wright played in the first volume, and continued to play to its potential here in the second volume. While these orphans are seemingly in the late teens early twenties, the level of their discourse regarding the physics of their powers and heritage further set them apart from “normal” kids in a boarding school.
Mysteries suspected in the first volume come to full light here as the orphans discover their true natures, as well as the reasons for their imprisonment. Much of this volume centers on their continued struggle to leave the boarding school, cross the boundary into the world outside, where they can live a life free of imprisonment. While resolution of such an issue should not be a quick plot point to jump over, here Wright has almost belabored the point. Through the first book and better part of the second book, Amelia and friends seem to be in a never-ending struggle to escape their school prison. All of the “children” have powerful a godlike parental lineage; this lineage is the reason for their imprisonment which truly comes to light in Fugitives. The School masters are as mysterious as the children in their ubiquitous nature. On these layers of mystery, Wright has effectively drawn the reader along to discover the relationships between the orphans and their true nature along with the characters themselves.
Despite the interesting blend of hard science and fantasy, and the complex mysteries of these characters, Wright’s plot suffered at times. Through the first part of the book, the plot felt stalled with very little forward momentum in the plot. The character’s plight came across almost as a rehash of what came before, in the first volume. In total, Fugitives of Chaos was a frustrating novel that promised much but failed to deliver fully on what could have been a much more enjoyable novel.
© 2007 Rob H. Bedford