The Obsidian Trilogy – Book 1: The Outstretched Shadow – By Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

Hey Jared,

I am really enjoying reading some of the iconic books we grew up with. Usually I have difficulty rereading books because I know what’s going to happen. Thankfully that has not been the case. This blog seems to be helping me pick out things I normally don’t pay attention to. Also my parched parental brain has conveniently forgotten much, so I’ll remember the general story lines but very few details.

At this point I plan to review each of the books in The Obsidian Trilogy. My primary reason being that it has a significant influence in how I read and enjoy novels in the Fantasy genre. A pillar of my pantheon.

The-Outstretched-Shadow.jpgTitle: The Outstretched Shadow
Series: The Obsidian Trilogy; Book 1
Author: Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
ROTS Setting: UU, Medieval, Dragons, Higher Magic,
Synopsis: Kellen doesn’t fit the life his father plans for him. A High Mage, like his father, fulfilling the potential and responsibility of his forefathers. A leader in the Golden City, Armethalieh. However, the perfect life prepared for him has dark shadows. When three books find their way into his possession, Kellen must decide to remain in the relative safety of the City of a Thousand Bells or follow the whims of a greater Power.
Recommendation: Adult or late teens. Mild sexual content and innuendos. Moderate violence and high gore, but well balanced and done with purpose. I highly recommend this book!

Ok, I’m old school and this has been and probably always will be “The Obsidian Trilogy” to me. I can’t say I know how, when, or why it’s now called “The Obsidian Mountain Trilogy” but I suspect that it was renamed after they decided to write the sequel trilogy to help differentiate it from the series title/name, “World of Obsidian.”  If anyone knows the exact reason (with source) please comment below. I’d be very interested to figure that out.

Much of the general world setting takes many elements from classic fantasy. Good vs Evil. Light vs Dark. With a history of large bloody conflicts in which Light barely wins and the odds are even worse the next time but they still manage to win. The weaving of unicorns, centaurs, fairies, brownies, dragons and the many other magical being into this world is very well done. I normally don’t enjoy stories that feature many of the classic lesser magical creatures but this is so well balanced I hardly notice they blend in so well.

Magic is divided primarily along similar lines. Wild Magic for the good guys. It has some crazy rules and an enigmatic air to it. Dark Magic is for the baddies. Pain in all its forms and death are what fuel it. The common theme though is that for everything there is a price or an exchange. You want “A” so you need to give “B”.

Now Wild Magic requires a physical or magical price from the caster for minor spells, like lighting a candle. Larger spells require that same price along with something called “Magedebt.” A task or additional cost so that the world can remain in balance or to help bring the world into balance. The more specific a caster is in what they want their spell to accomplish the higher the price. I like to think of it as specific questions requiring specific answers. I won’t go any further than that but that’s the gist.

High Magick is the first magic you’ll come across as it is the magic of Armethalieh, the Golden, the City of a Thousand Bells. It defies convention by eliminating “Magedebt” and only requiring the physical or magic price from the caster. Larger spells usually requiring several mages to act in concert. Another difference is the rote or ridged nature of High Magick with everything being strictly stylized and prescribed while Wild Magic has a fly by the seat of your pants feeling in comparison. This only makes sense when you realize that Wild Magic is a natural and critical part of the world and High Magick was created by humans.

Armethalieh is a wondrous city on the surface with wide clean streets and happy people. Many aspects are good and even the height of civilization, like clean water. However the city is ruled by it’s class of mages. They serve the city while also oppressing it “for the good of the people” and to maintain stability. Every aspect of City life is to serve the mages interests. There is a dark side to the city and Kellen really helps the reader to not only know but understand it.

He’s a rebellious teenager but Kellen doesn’t act out just because. His father is awful. He’s got real daddy issues, but remarkably he’s still pretty balanced and stable compared to other characters I’ve read in the last few months. (If they’d have had a father like this, they’d either commit suicide or have turned into a superhero….or both.) The rigidity that High Magick demands is understandably boring and there’s some foreshadowing elements that highlight this and future events quite nicely. On top of that he’s reasonably intelligent…….although he’s exceptionally innocent and naive to balance that out. Kellen is mildly annoying but in the he’s-only-a-teenager good way.

I enjoy much of the culture and societies that are shown or highlighted. They seem tangible and well thought out. Clearly, a lot of forethought and effort went into each of them so that even the little mundane aspects are logically and naturally present even if they aren’t specifically mentioned.

I’m going to stop here. I really enjoy this book and the others in the trilogy so I really don’t want to give too much away right now. As I mentioned above, I’m going to review the other two books in the trilogy as well. Sort of changing things up a bit and seeing how they go. It has taken quite the effort to get a hold of these books. They’re older but they aren’t that old. You’d think a large metropolitan library system would have them all but you’d be mistaken. Thank goodness for friends.



 Review of To Light a Candle; Book 2 >>


The Obsidian Trilogy – Book 1: The Outstretched Shadow – By Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

One thought on “The Obsidian Trilogy – Book 1: The Outstretched Shadow – By Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

  1. Jared says:

    For me this is the epitome of a fantasy trilogy. Interesting and inviting, long enough to cover everything but short enough to be exciting.


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