Orphans of Chaos
by John C. Wright
Tor, 2005, ISBN 0-312-86707-7
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
Wright continues to amaze. This book is not really anything like any of his previous ones, except that it's wonderfully written.
Somewhere in rural England, there's an orphage. The orphanage houses only five childrenVictor, Amelia, Vanity, Colin, and Quentin. They're significantly outnumbered by the staff, and despite receiving an excellent education, they're kept in almost prison-like conditions of discipline and restriction of movements. They've never made even an unsupervised visit to the nearby village.
Oh, and they all have unusual powersdifferent and apparently incompatible powers. Quentin's a warlock, Victor can change the molecular arrangement of matter, Amelia can see in four dimensions. If the physical laws of the universe are such that Quentin's powers can work, how can Victor's also work under the same set of laws?
There's also some mystery about their exact ages, and the larger mystery of where they come from. And now that they're approximately in their late teens, or perhaps early teens, or, just possibly, early twenties, curiosity and determination are overcoming deference to the adults they increasing regard as jailers. When Amelia and Quentin manage to eavesdrop on a midnight meeting of the Governors and Visitors of the school, all bets are off and they're in active rebellion against their captors.
But they still know only tiny pieces of what's going on.
This is truly excellent, although I need to mention that it's the first half, or possibly the first third, of the novel, not the whole thing. This volume doesn't end; it stops at a crucial point. Part Two will apparently be entitled Fugitives of Chaos. (That's less of a spoiler for this book than it might seem.) Nevertheless, Wright has delivered before, and I do highly recommend this one, as with everything Wright has produced.