It is often the case that middle books of trilogies are extended back fill, something to act as a bridge between the first and last parts. A Dream Of Kinship avoids this; indeed, it doesn’t even come close to it because it strikes off in a different direction. And this, allied with Cowper’s ability to tell a sweeping epic through the very intimate story of a boy growing up, is a true indication of the author’s skill.
Taking the story forward from the first book, we follow Jane’s child from birth in view of the burning ruins of Corlay through to his coming of age. The events that surround him touch mostly on the fortunes of First Kingdom and the influence he has on events. Through this we learn of the wider story, the spread of Kinship and the collapse of an ever more aggressive Church.
Great events occur and people play their part, but Cowper knows the value of character in making a story more alive, more intimate. The emotional connection he forges with the reader makes the story much more believable; much more than many fantasies that invest thousands of pages in world building only to people it with cartoon like characters who act as ciphers to carry the story forward.
To many, Cowper seems slow, yet his storytelling is full of rich detail and beautifully evoked scenes. He builds a world and shows it through the very real people who live there, the ordinary folk who fish and farm and make pots. And if this richness was not enough, he imbues the whole with explorations of deep philosophical and spiritual questions, often sparked by lucent insights and seemingly off-hand comments. It is intelligent and treats me as if I was as well. I very much look forward to the final book.