We're half way through this serialised novel now, and things are really hotting up! Like Part 4, this section focuses entirely on John and his time at Rathal’pesha. The story has once again jumped ahead in time, and is now a year on from Part 4. It's the harvest fair and Ravishan has drank himself into a stupor over what he knows he has to do come sundown. This year, instead of burning a witch, they have captured a Fai’daum rebel and, like last year, it's Ravishan's job to light the bonfire to burn the man. Things don't go to plan though and the events that follow set off a chain reaction which leads to tragedy.
The Holy Road is a book of startling realisations. As is fitting for the middle of a book, it features a number of 'turning points' for the characters. For most of the book things have been simmering between John and Usman Dayyid, and it is here that things come to a head in a most unexpected way. The implications of that then filter through the rest of this section, affecting not just John, but several other characters too. Another turning point is in the relationship between John and Ravishan as they find a measure of freedom to be with each other. The section where they are exploring the Southern city of Nurjimi, and marvelling at some of the differences between it and the dour repressiveness of Amura’taye, was my favourite part of the book. It was a shame then that this proved to be the calm before the storm. Finally, there is a turning point for Ravishan, who travels south to take part in the ceremony which will make him the Kahlil which will mean that finally John, Bill and Laurie can travel back to Earth. Each turning point proved to be an emotional roller coaster as I was taken through a number of highs and lows, from utter shock and disbelief through to happiness and pride.
Alongside these turning points, and intertwined through the story is John's growing realisation of just how powerful he is. This is explored in an exciting action scene and in quieter more desperate times. John's realisation that he is the Rifter hasn't really been tested in previous books but that certainly changes in this book. We are also given more information about the Rifter mythology, and how that will affect John in the future. The implications for John who wields so much power are given some space to develop, and it is both wondrous and frightening for John.
Another aspect which worked well for me is the continuing world-building of the setting. The religious and political situation in Basawar is always in the background during these stories and things are building to a breaking point. The situation with the Fai’daum, the petty squabbles of the different priests and the treatment of the poorer, despised classes are all slowly coming to a head in what promises to be quite an explosive act of rebellion. I am already anticipating the effect this will have on the oppressive religious regime as well as marvelling at how the author is managing to keep so many balls in the air, yet still have the space to provide what is turning out to be a satisfying romance sub-plot.
One final aspect which is slowly starting to work out through the series is the effect that John is having on the situation in Basawar and the characters that we see in the future sections with Kahlil. I have to admit that books and stories which mess about with time can be confusing. As this book progresses, I can now see how some of the effects that Kahlil feels when he gets thrown forward in time are a direct result of things that have happened in book 5. As a result I went back and re-read parts some of the earlier books, as things slowly start to begin to make a little more sense. It's all rather clever and leaves me rather in awe of Ginn Hale's storytelling prowess!
This section ends on a huge cliff hanger, one which I may have to wait awhile to be resolved. Kahlil in the future has taken a back seat for nearly 300 pages now, and I suspect he will be back in Part 6. I shall have to be patient! I'm just overwhelmed by the sheer breadth that this story has taken so far and amazed by the journey I'm being taken on through the characters of John and Kahlil. This is fantasy writing at its very best and I urge you, if you are a fantasy fan and haven't started this series yet, to go and buy it now.
You can either buy this fifth part - and then any of the other parts - separately for $3.99 each, or buy the whole book at $29.95 and each month the new part will be sent to you via email. More information about this and the buy now page can be found HERE.