Echoes of the Great Song
The novel explores several themes in the new-age paradigm of alternate history hypothesis, focusing on the existence, lives and demise of the Atlanteans. As is in much of Gemmell's fiction, the novel contains analogs for historical or mythical peoples and events (such as the references to Celtic history and culture in the Rigante novels). The Atlantean-type protagonists, the Avatars, have mastered pseudo-scientific magic to create a vast, powerful empire. The world on which the novel is set has "toppled" in a manner like that described by Hugh Auchincloss Brown, causing a cataclysm which destroys their civilization.
The Avatars were immortal and lived like kings - even though their empire was dying. Their immortality was guaranteed by magic crystals, crystals whose influence was now waning. But when two moons appeared in the sky, and the ruthless armies of the Crystal Queen swarmed across the land, bringing devastation and terror, the Avatars united with their subjects to protect their universe.
The story is set in the world of the Avatars - an immortal race of humans, who are convinced that they are gods, undying. Their empire was destroyed when the seas upturned. A few - around 200 - escaped when one of the spiritual leaders, Questor Anu, predicted the fall of the world. The group of 200 moved north from the city of Parapolis, to the city of Pagaru. The day after they arrived, the world was turned upside down, and Questor Anu gained the title of The Holy One. Other than the group who travelled with Questor Anu, the Holy One, about 300 other Avatars survived the end of the world.
The Avatars rely upon magic crystals to keep them alive and healthy. Their power is fading, however, and an expedition attempts to recharge power chests by creating a link with their great power source within the previous capital city, Parapolis, which was covered in ice. They succeed - partly - charging four of the six chests. The chests are used to power the only Avatar ship, the Serpent Seven, as well as recharge the primary Avatar weapons - the zhi-bow. The zhi-bow is a bow that shoots the equivalent of plasma bolts.
The humans who are ruled by the Avatars, known as the Vagars, are starting a secret rebellion in the remaining cities of the Avatar. The group calls themselves the Pajists - a group set out to see the fall of the Avatar. The Pajists are a group of assassins who are headed by a Vagar woman known as Mejana. Mejana is motivated to bring down the Avatar Empire by the killing of her daughter, who disobeyed the race laws by falling in love with an Avatar. She was crystal-drawn, meaning that her life force was sucked out of her and into the crystals of the Avatar, which grant them immortality. Crystal drawing cannot be infinitely continued, however, so Anu the Holy One begins the construction of a great pyramid which will supposedly absorb the suns energy and then power the crystals of the Avatar. However, the real purpose behind the pyramid is to destroy all the Crystals, as Anu foresaw the arrival of foreign invaders, led by a great crystal power.
There are greater problems for the Avatar and the people with them, however. A people known as the Almecs, who are headed by Almeia, the Crystal Queen, managed to avoid the fall of their own world by teleporting their continent to the world of the Avatars. They learn of the Avatars, and their fragile position in the world. Thinking the Avatars will realize the obvious, they sail to the new capital city, Egaru, where they are greeted courteously by the Avatar rulers. They give a blunt message: hand over power to the Almecs and live, or fight and die.
The Avatar council decides to fight, as they believe the war is winnable. Using the power of the Sunfire, a giant laser beam, they sink several Almec ships and force them off. The treasures of the other cities, power chests and the remaining Avatars, are called back to Egaru, which the Avatar council claims is easier to defend.
From now on, the Avatar leadership moves fast. It reaches out to the nomad tribes and to the king of the 'mud men', Vagars living in an ordered society outside of Avatar rule. This move largely fails, with the mud men refusing help and subsequently being slaughtered. The next move on behalf of the Avatars is to repair ties with their Vagar underlings, largely the order known as the Pajists. The leader, Mejana, eventually comes over to the Avatar side, but many changes to the way things are run are made. The Avatar council becomes half Avatar, half Vagar, and the army's officers the same. This, however, leads to many poor decisions in the field, and the Almecs manage to besiege Egaru.
After a long and costly fight for both sides, the Almec General, Cas-Coatl, proposes a truce between the two sides. The Vagar population will be slaughtered in order to feed the Crystal Queen's thirst for blood, but the Avatars will survive and be allowed into the Almec society.
The Avatars gather in the town hall together to discuss this, but as they are doing so, Almeia, the Crystal Queen, discovers the true purpose of Anu's pyramid, which will destroy her when complete. She immediately orders the deaths of the Avatars, who were clustered together. The siege weapons of the Almecs kill all the Avatar who were not warrior males.
Rael, the Questor General and leader of the Avatars, surrounds himself with the remaining members of his endangered species, his warriors. They, distraught over the extinction of their species, as all the females have been killed, prepare for a death ride. They charge the Almec line, hoping to destroy their siege weapons. They succeed, but all save one are killed. This move gives Anu time to activate his pyramid, which destroys the Crystal Queen and leads to the Almec defeat.
- Echoes of the Great Song review at SFReader.com