Jennifer Fallon’s Medalon is the first book in The Demon Child Trilogy, which makes up the larger Hythrun Chronicles. The Sisterhood of Medalon has made it illegal to practice religion (the worship of pagan gods), persecutes all believers of the gods, and has forced the Harshini, a race of long-lived beings who interact with the gods, into hiding. The sisters use a highly trained army of male Defenders to enforce their orders across the country. But, the First Sister has just been murdered, and while the sisters are plotting and jockeying for position amongst themselves, the Demon Child — a human/Harshini half-breed — is coming to maturity in Medalon and the gods, who are involved in their own plots, need to find the child because it’s the only creature capable of killing another god.
The main characters, R’shiel and Tarja, are the children of Joyhinia, a sister whose one goal is to be the First Sister. Though she claims to not have a concept of “sin,” Joyhinia commits a lot of it as she seeks to fulfil her ambition. Even her children are not permitted to get in her way, and are used as pawns in her scheming. Eventually, R’shiel and Tarja find themselves allied against their mother and the Sisterhood, and their beliefs are challenged as they actually meet gods and Harshini who, they thought, don’t exist.
Medalon was a quick and entertaining read. The pace is fast and there is plenty of action. The characters are mostly well-developed, interesting, and likeable (or hateable where appropriate). A couple of characters are over-the-top enough to be unbelievable (it’s hard to believe that Joyhinia dislikes her own children more than she dislikes other people), but they are interesting enough that I found myself over-looking that. The writing, while not particularly beautiful like Carey, Clarke, Valente, or Bujold, is completely competent, clear, and often witty.
I really have only a couple of objections: Medalon is a society based on “law” and “common sense,” not ideas of “sin” or “morality.” Yet we learn that lust, rape, betrayal, stealing, lying, treason, murder, incest, abortion, premarital sex, and tardiness are “wrong.” Whores and bastards are looked down on, paternity of Joyhinia’s son is kept secret, abortionists are run out of town, and the man who defends the First Sister is required to take an oath of celibacy. For a society without a belief in sin, they sure spend a lot of time condemning it.
Second, while the antics of the gods were meant to be funny and entertaining, I found them annoying. For example, the goddess of love styles herself as a little girl and demands that everyone loves her. She casts a spell to make one of the characters fall in love with another and then declares that she hopes another god won’t be mad. Well, I don’t know if the other god got mad, but I did. The love of the one character for the other (I’m trying not to spoil the plot here) is a major plot element, but its unnatural contrivance makes it seem shallow, and I felt cheated. Some of the other gods and their interactions with disrespectful humans (who remind them to stay vigilant and tell them to “shut up”) was just silly. And then there are the ugly but cuddly demons who can become gods if they get enough followers to believe in them. Somehow, this didn’t work for me.
But, even with these issues, I found myself really enjoying Medalon; it’s not great literature, but it’s fun. And I admire Jennifer Fallon for having a bunch of gossiping and scheming unlikeable women being defended by brave and mostly honorable and likeable men. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but I’ll say that only a female writer could get away with it.
I have picked up (at my library) the next three books, and I look forward to starting Treason Keep soon. I’ll let you know.
The Demon Child Trilogy
The Wolfblade Trilogy is a prequel to The Demon Child Trilogy