Where Sons of the Oak could arguably considered a continuation of the first four books, what with references and plots revolving around the Earth King and his wife and a focus on Borenson, Myrrima, and their children, now in Worldbinder we’re really getting into the changes–and I’m not sure I’m okay with that.
For one, the first real ‘binding of worlds’ happens fairly early in the book. In a nutshell, that means that any character alive in both worlds is now a mix of memories, experiences, et al of both characters, while those only in one are initially weaker for it. And the other world is… weird. Humankind has been fighting Wyrmlings (evil human with death magic and Loci) and mostly wiped out. Those remaining are 7+ feet tall, giants, so anyone merged is… suddenly bigger? Now Fallion has to do his super powered magic things and deal with the issues… that he caused in the first place by binding the worlds.
The worldbuilding feels weaker. The Wyrmlings are twisted, basically pure evil humans with no redeeming features. Having their most powerful warriors be essentially dead shades still bound to the earth is neat enough. The reavers were at least fascinatingly alien, rather than evil. I don’t usually care for straight up good versus evil, and this is that in spades.
The multiple worlds idea was cool, but rather than a mix of worlds, we have what feels like an entirely new world and mostly an entirely new cast of characters. Fallion and co are still about, but absolutely no on screen appearances of Myrrima and Borenson. We do see Binnesman, but he’s changed pretty radically. It is fascinating to see mirror versions of a few characters (Gaborn and Raj Ahten), but they’re so different, they might as well be new characters as well, other than a ’that’s neat’ sort of feeling.
One vaguely interesting idea is the introduction of forcible/endowments to this shadow world. Dealing with that was already one of the strongest parts of the first books–even if it was economoically spotty at best–and it’s really going to shake things up in a world where it was previously unheard of with mountains of the Bloodmetal to work with. Potential at least?
Overall, the plot feels slower and weaker than the previous books. There’s a lot of figuring out what in the world happened and dealing with the fallout of the worlds merging. It would be an interesting introductory book, but this is book 6 (book 2 of the second series even). There’s a fascinating twist at the end that at least gives me hope for the next book… but only just.
Characterwise, Fallion still seems too strong. He’s a Chosen One turned up to 11. I think Gaborn actually felt human, which I appreciated. I think it actually helped that he lost his powers for most of the first series. Other than that, his friends are mostly forgettable, as mentioned characters I liked are missing, and the new characters seem more like caricatures than previous books had been. Of all of them, Rhianna was at least sort of interesting, but there are some… really weird choices made for her.
Don’t ask me, you fool, she thought. Don’t beg my permission. Rhianna had proven her love for him. She’d offered up her life to Shadoath, hoping to rescue him. Rhianna had tendered her soul when she tried to kill Shadoath’s dedicates, knowing that Fallion could never murder a child.
But Fallion begged Rhianna’s permission to marry another. He didn’t ask with his voice, but with his eyes.
And as Rhianna’s heart seemed to break, she realized that she could not deny him.
Right now, Rhianna could think of no greater way to prove her love than to give him the one thing that he wanted most.
One interesting change is Daylan Hammer. We finally get to meet him and it turns out he's far weaker than we'd all thought. He never was the Sum of All Men after all (Sorry Borenson), instead a Bright One. And a weak one at that. . Sure, I guess?
Overall, I enjoyed the first four books far more, but at this point I’m willing to give it one more book’s try, if only for the idea that this time around the Earth King is evil, choosing for the Twisted Earth and Raj Ahten's shadow is on the side of good .