Much of Venom and Song focuses on the development of cohesion among the seven lords. They begin the story as a loose-knit set of teens with little in common other than the bizarre events that have taken over their lives. Grimwarden wisely understands that a few individuals with some extraordinary gifts will fail before the power and discipline of the Spider King. From the instant their training at Whitehall begins, Grimwarden concentrates on teamwork, on transforming the seven into a military unit that is more powerful than the sum of its parts. The team-building exercises demonstrate that as a team, the seven lords can accomplish what the individuals cannot. All seven have unique gifts and important roles to play and no one, not even Jett with his strength or Johnny with his fire, can carry everyone. Along with cohesion comes trust and friendship and sacrifice. When they first arrived at Whitehall, they bickered and lashed out at each other when the tasks became difficult. All that had changed by the time they reached Terradym Fortress. They went to extraordinary lengths to save one another from death in the various traps and worked together to unlock the secrets of the cistern.
Initially, the lords understand the conflict with the Spider King as a battle between good and evil. They are the "good guys" while the Gwar and assorted company are the "bad guys." Their Elvish handlers are content to leave them in ignorance, but a chance meeting with a scarlet raptor leads Kat and Tommy to a shocking discovery. The Elves once enslaved the Gwar and treated them cruelly. The Gwar have good reason to feel some antipathy toward the Elves. The revelations, which Kat and Tommy share with the others before approaching Grimwarden and Goldarrow, threaten to wreck the Elves' plans. Jett threatens to leave Allyra and return to Earth. Grimwarden and Goldarrow eventually convince the seven that despite the wrongs of the past, the Elvish cause is just in the face of the Spider King's tyranny and vengeance. "[H]ow much Elven blood must be spilled to pay the debt in full?" asks Grimwarden (p. 179). The seven learn that history is more gray than black and white and that righting past wrongs with more violence and wrongs does not resolve the original issue.
Finally, Venom and Song makes an interesting comparison on the nature of power in the contrast between the Spider King and the seven lords. The Spider King is all about physical power. He does appear to be stronger than the combined powers of the seven. He has an answer to all their tactics, but he is puzzled by some of their decisions. After Jett sacrifices his life to save Kiri Lee, the Spider King says, "And the strong one made the choice to let the air walker live? How strange, given that he was the greater warrior" (p. 367). The Spider King values physical strength above all else and when their battle with him reaches a stalemate, the Spider King taunts them, asking them what they know about power.
"Look, look behind you. See my armies, my fortress, my lands? I KNOW power, real power! Power to create life, power to take it . . . even power to wake the dormant volcano to vomit up FIRE!" (p. 380)The irony soon becomes evident. The Spider King knows very little about real power as water soon washes away his armies, his fortress, and him. The Rainsong calls on the real power of Ellos (God) to unleash the torrent that dooms the Spider King and his plans. To the response of Ellos, the Spider King has no answer. And the key to the Rainsong is Kiri Lee, the person that the physically strongest member of the seven gave up his life to save.
Venom and Song is an exciting narrative that addresses friendship, trust, sacrifice, and power in thought provoking ways. It's well worth reading.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of Venom and Song from the publisher.
To learn more about the authors, visit their blogs:
Wayne Thomas Batson – http://enterthedoorwithin.blogspot.com/
Christopher Hopper – http://www.christopherhopper.com/blog/
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