Beyond the Burning Lands by John Christopher (1971) 170 p.

This is the second book in John Christopher’s “Sword of the Spirits” trilogy, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than the first. Luke Perry (yeah, yeah, it was written in the ‘70s) has been permitted to return to Winchester, the city of his birth, by the new Prince and his half-brother, Peter. While the Seers are continuing their man-behind-the-curtain machinations to restore science and knowledge to the world, Luke is content to be back at home, but soon goes off on another adventure. A peddler from foreign lands has arrived in Winchester, claiming to have crossed the volcanic wasteland to the north, and offers to return with an embassy to the “land of the Wilsh.” Luke, as Peter’s brother, is sent along with the group as an emissary.

While The Prince in Waiting was fairly pedestrian fantasy/post-apocalyptic story offering castles, battles and political struggles, Beyond the Burning Lands features the mystery of new lands, cultural intrigue and even some monsters, and was a much more entertaining ride. I also found Christopher’s tell-don’t-show writing style more tolerable in this one, as it actually makes a lot more sense for Luke to be evaluating his feelings behind a poker face as he acts as an emissary in a strange and foreign country. On the whole, this was a quick, easy young adult novel that I enjoyed quite a bit more than its predecessor. I’m glad I stuck with this trilogy and I look forward to its eponymous conclusion, The Sword of the Spirits.