Summoning Light Review
Summoning Light is the second volume of The Passing of the Techno-Mages, the Babylon 5 novel trilogy by Jeanne Cavelos.
The book builds on the strong foundation of Casting Shadows to continue the story of Galen and Elric. The series is staying on course to become the best Babylon 5 trilogy.
Summoning Light picks up shortly after the end of Casting Shadows. The techno-mages are preparing to flee from known space. In a move mirrored by many other techno-mages, Elric severs his connection to the planet Soom. Elric demonstrated his commitment to the techno-mage ideal of doing good by establishing a place of power on Soom. This enhanced extension of his techno-mage technology made him the caretaker of the planet, able to observe and guide weather patterns and geological events. He could avert natural disasters and protect his adopted people. Now, however, he must destroy his place of power, which is akin to severing his own limbs and senses. Elric's sacrifice demonstrates his commitment to the techno-mage ideals of solidarity and obedience.
As the techno-mages organize their flight, the Shadows determine to secure their alliance or destroy them. The Vorlons observe from a distance with similar goals. At this point, the action splits into two stories.
Galen travels to the Shadow base on Thenothk with Blaylock to gather intelligence on the Shadows' plans for the techno-mages. Blaylock is a powerful member of the Circle, but destroying his own place of power has weakened him. Galen can secure his position on this mission because he is translating Isabelle's spell to eavesdrop on the Shadows. However, Galen plans to abandon Blaylock after completing their mission to pursue his revenge against Elizar, Isabelle's killer.
Meanwhile, Elric leads a group of mages to Babylon 5 as a stop along their exodus. These scenes parallel the events of the episode, "The Geometry of Shadows". Jeanne Cavelos is true to her promise. Summoning Light gives a new understanding of what happened in "The Geometry of Shadows". Readers may be surprised at how wrong their assumptions were about the events of that episode.
Casting Shadows charted Galen's quest to understand himself, and that journey takes a disquieting turn in Summoning Light. Galen's self-loathing and guilt over Isabelle's death take center stage as he fights to maintain control over the violent spell of destruction that he has promised never to cast. Casting Shadows opened with the question, "Who are you?" In my Casting Shadows review, I surmised that Summoning Light might open with the question "What do you want?" Instead, it puts a twist on the first question to ask, "What are you?" This is the question that Galen wrestles with throughout the story. The final blow to Galen's spirit may be the redefinition of his entire universe brought about by the shocking revelation of the techno-mages' darkest secret.
Jeanne Cavelos keeps the action moving, jumping deftly from Galen's frightening and violent descent into a Shadow stronghold to Elric's masterful manipulation of the scenes from "The Geometry of Shadows". We are treated to guest appearances by some of Ms. Cavelos' other favorite characters: Mr. Morden and Anna Sheridan. Anna Sheridan, in particular, serves as a catalyst to force Galen and Blaylock to view themselves in a new light.
Like Casting Shadows before it, Summoning Light is an excellent novel in its own right regardless of its Babylon 5 connection. Furthermore, this is the perfect novel for Babylon 5 viewers who have previously resisted reading the novels. The scenes on Babylon 5 include the familiar characters of John Sheridan, Londo Mollari, and Vir Cotto and provide a new perspective on an episode that viewers have already seen.
Another area in which Summoning Light excels is that although it is the middle book of a trilogy it feels like a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. This sense of a satisfying conclusion is something that the middle volumes of the previous two Babylon 5 trilogies failed to deliver.
Summoning Light is an exceptional novel and an intriguing addition to the Babylon 5 mythos. The reader can not help but experience the deep emotions of Galen and Elric evoked by Jeanne Cavelos' marvelous writing.