Daniells’ Besieged is the first book in a trilogy about the fate of the T’En (known to humans as the Wyrd), a race of near-humans blessed (cursed) with “gifts.” For three centuries there’s been an uneasy truce between them and humans. The T’En and the half-human/half-T’En Malaunje are confined to an island city, isolated estates and ghettos in select cities; T’En and Malaunje babies born to human women (which happens even if both parents are human) are given over to the T’En. That custom (and truce stipulation) is broken when King Charald’s queen bears a half-Malaunje child, and Oskane, the high priest of the Father, sees an opportunity to raise an assassin who can infiltrate T’En society and help bring about a “final solution” to the Wyrd problem. I use the term “final solution” fully aware of the connotation it should bring up with Nazis and Jews. I don’t know if Daniells wants to draw a parallel between Christian Europe and the Jews and Father-worshiping Chalcedonia and the T’En but it’s certainly there; and I can’t believe Daniells is unaware of it. For example, the event that sets Charald off on a final crusade against the T’En is when a delegation approaches him about repaying the loans the Wyrd had given him in the early days of his kingdom when he needed money to consolidate the throne. Compare this to similar situations medieval kings faced when they borrowed heavily from Jewish bankers. Or there’s the character of Charald, who becomes more and more Hitler-like as the story progresses.
T’En society is little better. For centuries they’ve lived in an increasingly dysfunctional society where men and women have been segregated into brother- and sisterhoods, ostensibly to protect the women from the uncontrolled gifts and aggression of the men. But the system has simply reinforced that aggression and has led to a dangerous imbalance between the two. The unexpected, and concealable, birth of a full T’En baby girl – Imoshen – to Rohaayel provides him with an opportunity to blow apart the centuries-old covenant and reassert what he considers a more proper relationship with the women.
Both his and Oskane’s plans fall apart when their two protégés grow up, and begin to think and act for themselves.
I’m giving this book a weak three-stars; it’s a 2.75/2.8 rounded up. The writing is usually good but there are sections that read awkwardly. They needed another draft to tighten up the writing. (The clearest example is the transition from part one to part two. I almost thought I was reading another, less competent author for the first few chapters.) Daniells joins those authors who write well enough that I can enjoy reading them but in this case I’m not captured by the story or characters sufficiently to care to seek out the next chapter in the saga.