Armies of Light and Dark Review
Armies of Light and Dark is the second volume in Peter David's Centauri Prime trilogy, Legions of Fire.
In this book, Emperor Londo Mollari begins to take a back seat in the story. His active scenes are few and far between. The majority of the text about Londo takes the form of excerpts from The Chronicles of Londo Mollari - Diplomat, Emperor, Martyr, and Self-Described Fool, an autobiography that is published after his death. Londo is only able to write in this journal when he has intoxicated his keeper.
Even though the journal is written if the first person, is serves to distance the reader from Londo's character. The journal is Londo's only outlet, and this helps to illustrate his progressive isolation from his friends and allies.
Ambassador Vir Cotto replaces Londo as the main character in the story. Who would have believed during the first season that Londo's bumbling assistant would one day carry a novel on his shoulders?
Throughout the book, Vir is faced with challenging situations along his path of growth into a hero. He is no longer the stammering coward who first came to Babylon 5. However, Vir's heroism comes with a price. In order to fight the evil of the Drakh without bringing the might of the Interstellar Alliance down upon Centauri Prime, Vir must make compromises and take steps that he would have thought unconscionable a few years earlier. He knows that he is damned for his actions, but that's what a hero is: someone who is willing to pay the price even if the price is his own soul.
Vir is joined in his efforts by four techno-mages including Galen. It is now apparent that J. Michael Straczynski intends the techno-mages to be very important to post-2262 events in the Babylon 5 universe. In addition to Galen, several other characters from Babylon 5 make appearances including Michael Garibaldi, Citizen G'Kar, and even Lou Welch. Mr. Welch returns with a surprise or two of his own!
This novel picks up right where The Long Night of Centauri Prime leaves off and covers a time period from 2267 to 2273. Therefore, readers get to see what is happening on Centauri Prime and elsewhere in the weeks surrounding the events of "A Call to Arms" when the Drakh attack the Earth. We also learn what Galen is up to during his many absences from the Excalibur.
My one problem with the book is the use of a techno-mage spell that certainly falls under Arthur C. Clarke's definition of a sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic. Galen's action propels much of Vir's later success. The situation almost feels like a deus ex machina. I think the problem is that with more exposure to techno-mages they become more mundane to the reader, and it becomes harder to suspend disbelief concerning their magic.
Putting this one small quibble aside, Armies of Light and Dark is an excellent continuation of the Centauri Prime trilogy. The story is over far too quickly and the reader is left wanting more. It is a sad but fascinating tale of Vir Coto's simultaneous rise and fall.