Conqueror's Moon (Boreal Moon Tale Series #1)

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Overview

The four kingdoms in the Boreal Sea that have clashed since time out of mind. But Prince Conrig of Cathra?who waits patiently as his father, the king, slowly dies?is in league with his lover, the seductive sorceress Princess Ullanoth of Moss. And if their secret alliance succeeds, the warring kingdoms will be united once and for all?under the iron hand of one supreme rule.

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Overview

The four kingdoms in the Boreal Sea that have clashed since time out of mind. But Prince Conrig of Cathra—who waits patiently as his father, the king, slowly dies—is in league with his lover, the seductive sorceress Princess Ullanoth of Moss. And if their secret alliance succeeds, the warring kingdoms will be united once and for all—under the iron hand of one supreme rule.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Young Deveron Austrey has a secret: He is a wild Talent, a rare individual with magical abilities that cannot be detected by sorcerers. As the intelligencer for Prince Conrig of Cathra, Deveron (a.k.a. Snudge) uses his abilities to further his liege's obsessive quest for power -- with disastrous results.

The kingdom of Cathra is one of four sovereignties that make up High Blenholme, a much-storied island in the Boreal Sea steeped in mystical folklore. With his father on his deathbed, Prince Conrig secretly allies with Ullanoth, the seductive daughter of the Conjure-King of Moss. Of the four kingdoms on the island, Moss is looked down upon for its open use of magic and its long association with dangerous magical creatures like the Salka and the Beaconfolk. But while Conrig sees Ullanoth as a means to powerful magic, she sees the handsome prince as a military ally who can help her defeat her evil brother, who wants to kill her and her father and rule Moss himself. Conrig's grand plan to unify the island kingdoms seems impossible; but with the help of Ullanoth and Snudge, an unlikely scheme is formulated.

Those who enjoy superbly written epic fantasy sagas like Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and the Wayfarer Redemption series by Sara Douglass will delight in Conqueror's Moon. With dozens of fully realized characters and enough magic, treachery, intrigue, and illicit romance to fill five books, this wildly entertaining novel is just the first volume in what should be an incredible series. Paul Goat Allen

Publishers Weekly
In her latest epic fantasy, the first of a new series, May (The Many-Colored Land) introduces legions of characters, few with any substance, but her inventive use of magic and well-conceived plot will sweep readers along. Prince Conrig of Blencathra hopes to unite the four kingdoms of the island of High Blenholme, in disarray after three years of disastrous volcanic activity, and crown himself emperor. Intent on launching a daring attack on the kingdom of Didion, Conrig secretly allies himself with the treacherous Lady Ullanoth of Moss, a powerful sorceress. Ullanoth expects to rule not only Moss but also as Conrig's empress. Conrig's current wife, the strong-willed Princess Maudrayne, suspects Conrig's infidelities, and punishes him by keeping her pregnancy a secret. Conrig's father, Olmigon Wicantor, the mostly ineffectual High King of Blencathra, consults the oracular severed head of the Emperor Bazekoy to learn how to redeem his reign. Following the oracle's advice proves tricky for the dying Olmigon. The novel, presented as the memoir of a former spy with magical talents, neatly concludes Conrig's first campaign while leaving plenty of room for sequels. (Jan. 6) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Author of the highly successful Saga of the Pliocene Exile series, May begins his first book in the new Boreal Moon Trilogy with a tantalizing prologue. It is narrated in the first person by Deveron Austrey, an old man living in exile and plagued by fears of assassination. Partly to forestall boredom and partly to vent his considerable spleen, Deveron has decided to write about his long years as Prince Conrig Wincantor's spy, and thus the tale begins. After this promising beginning, the story bogs down in the first few chapters, as May reverts to third-person narration and laboriously outlines the politics and the personalities of High Blenholme, an island divided into four kingdoms. This reviewer found her attention faltering more than once, struggling to remember the cast of characters and their political interrelationships. Any reader who perseveres past the slow beginning, however, will be rewarded by a rollicking sword-and-sorcery saga, as Prince Conrig begins his quest to reunite the island under one rule and is forced into some dark and dangerous alliances. This series opener provides a satisfying mix of political intrigue, ambition, and sorcery, along with some fascinating and complex characters. Reminiscent of the works of Guy Gavriel Kay, it is sure to appeal to devotees of high fantasy epics. VOYA Codes 3Q 4P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Ace, 389p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Vivian Howard
Library Journal
The kingdom of Moss, ruled by Sorcerers, occupies part of an island in the Boreal Sea. As disasters wrack its neighbors, Moss alone prospers until Prince Conrig of Cathra and his lover, Princess Ullanoth of Moss, form an alliance that might bring unity-and tyranny to the warring lands of the island of High Blenholme. The author of the "Pliocene" and the "Galactic Milieu" series launches a fantasy epic focusing on a struggle for power in a land filled with magic and intrigue. Skillful world-building and keenly developed characters make this an excellent choice for most libraries. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780441012114
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Series: Boreal Moon Tale Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.66 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Julian May is the author of the internationally successful Saga of the Pliocene Exile (The Many-Colored Land, The Golden Torch, The Nonborn King, and The Adversary). This was followed by the Galactic Milieu Trilogy, three volumes in the Black Trillium fantasy series, and most recently the Rampart Worlds science fiction trilogy (Perseus Spur, Orion Arm, and Sagittarius Whorl).
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Read an Excerpt

One

Conrig Wincantor, Prince Heritor of Cathra, Earl of Brent, and Lord Constable of the Realm, ate without much of an appetite, picking at the cold roast beef, eel pie, and fine white wastelbread. He had no stomach at all for the cress salad with scallions or the dessert of pears seethed in cranberry cordial. The prince's only dining companion was his older brother Vra-Stergos, newly ordained Doctor Arcanorum in the Mystic Order of the Brothers of Zeth. No pages served them. They had come to Castle Vanguard on a secret mission, and their presence was unknown to the ordinary inhabitants of the northern fortress.

Their meal had been set out in a small chamber lit only by a glazed loophole, adjacent to the castle solar where the council of war was to take place. Neither of them said much, but the prince could not help but notice how Stergos's eyes lost their focus from time to time, and how he would sometimes hold his head motionless as though listening, even though this arras-hung cubby where they supped was as quiet as winter midnight on Raven Moor.

Finally Conrig said, "Gossy, is there something amiss?"

The alchymist had been sitting like a man frozen, his wine cup poised halfway to his lips. Now he gave a sudden start and set the drink down with a shaky hand. "I don't know." His voice was fretful, but then Stergos had always been a worry-wart. "I think I sense a presence somewhere close by, someone possessed of the talent. I said nothing earlier so as not to spoil our dinner."

"Perhaps Snudge is watching us, trying to read our lips." Conrig flashed an exasperated smile. "Damn his impudence! But he means no harm. I'll admonish him and box his earslater."

"I wish you'd left that boy behind at Brent Lodge," Stergos complained. "It was unwise to bring him along on this crucial mission. Wild talents aren't to be trusted! He can't be windwatched so I never know exactly what he's up to. Deveron's been badly spoiled by your overindulgence, Con. He needs discipline. At sixteen, he's quite old enough to enter the novitiate at the abbey--"

"No," said the prince with a firmness that brooked no argument. "Deveron Austrey is mine, not Saint Zeth's, and I alone will command his loyalty, erratic though it sometimes may be. You must never tell your mystical brethren or anyone else that the lad is not a common man. Is that understood?"

"Yes, but--"

"I need my personal spy, my snudge. He sees things other talents do not--not even you, reverend brother. Folk are wary in the presence of a professed alchymist and windvoice, but who pays any attention to the youngest of the prince's footmen?"

"He still thinks of his aptitudes as playthings! One of these days he'll make a slip and reveal what he is to the wrong person. I'm only trying to protect you, Con."

"I know, Gossy. Search the wind one last time for intruders, then you must leave me while I gather my wits for the council." The prince spoke evenly, hiding the concern that suddenly touched him. There was someone watching. He felt it, too. Drinking down the last of his watered wine in a single pull, he arose from the table. "This cramped room is depressing. Come. Let's go into the solar. I'll look at the scenery while you exert your magic."

They left the inner chamber and stood near the solar's huge leaded-crystal window, a marvelous thing made of hundreds of polished small panes, each one perfectly transparent. It was Duke Tanaby Vanguard's particular pride, facing westward so as to give an expansive view of Demon Seat and the lesser peaks in the Dextral Range, silhouetted now against a glaring sunset sky that struck jewel-bright reflections from the collection of silver wine ewers, gilt flasks of ardent spirits, and glass cordial bottles set out by the window for the council attendees.

Stergos cupped both hands over his eyes and stood still, ranging outward. He had been shaved bald for his ordination a moon ago on his thirtieth birthday, and now his head had sprouted fine golden fuzz that gave him a childlike air, even in his imposing crimson robes. Slight of body and round-faced, he had always seemed younger than Conrig, although five years separated them. The two brothers were devoted to one another, in spite of the differences in their temperament.

At length the doctor lowered his hands. "It can't be that knave Deveron riding the wind. It's another--a mind far more adept--but God knows who it is. It seems that all of the noble guests down in the great hall have done just as Duke Tanaby bade them. None of their retinues include alchymists, windvoices, or other folk of talent, and Vra-Doman Carmorton and the rest of the duke's own magickers are temporarily exiled to the town. Their scrying powers are meager, and they're much too far away to see into the castle. As far as I can tell, the only practitioners in all of Vanguard are the young intelligencer Deveron and myself. And yet I'm positive that someone oversees us!" Stergos smote his brow in vexation. "Ah, if only I were not newly frocked, I might serve you more competently, Con. But overseeing is so much more difficult than windspeech--"

"Never mind, Brother. All will be well." The prince paused, turning away to stare at the spectacular vista outside the window. "It may be that I know who could be watching. If I'm right, she has no evil intent."

The doctor's face stiffened in dismay. "Of course! I didn't think of her. God's Breath! If only there were another way for us to--"

"You must not even hint at such a thing, Gossy," Conrig chided him. "If we gain at last what we have sought for so long, it will be because of her help."

Vra-Stergos only shook his head, not daring to say more for fear of offending his brother by casting aspersions upon the co-author of the great new scheme. The accursed woman might even be listening from a far distance as well as watching! Such a feat was alleged to be impossible, but who could tell with Mosslanders? The devilspawn were said to be part Salka, and might very well share the monsters' inhumanly strong talent.

"Everything is ready for the meeting," Conrig said. "I have the wafers secure in my purse, and no one has meddled with the wine."

Stergos's eyes flickered. "Is there no way I can dissuade you from using them?"

"I respect your misgivings, but you know there was no alternative. Go now and wait with our Heart Companions in the tower. I'll join you as soon as the council is over and tell you everything. Take the hidden stairs."

"May Saint Zeth guide you." Stergos touched the golden gammadion amulet of his order hanging at his breast and returned to the inner chamber.

Conrig waited for several minutes and then followed. The latch that opened the concealed passageway was in the curtain wall next to the necessarium, beneath a stone shelf holding a lavabo, a crock of scented softsoap, and fine linen handtowels. He pressed a knob and a low doorway swung open. After listening for footfalls and hearing none, the prince ducked inside and closed the door behind him. Much of the castle and its six great towers could be stealthily accessed via these 'tween-wall passages and cramped spiral stairways. The things were full of cobwebs and dead insects and rat turds, poorly lit by the occasional inward-looking peephole or narrow slits or oillets in the exterior masonry. Only the duke's family and their most trusted retainers knew of the secret warren's existence. Conrig and Stergos and their poor simple brother Tancoron and their sisters Therise and Milyna had used the passages as a playground when they were children visiting their godfather's castle.

The prince went quickly to the musicians' gallery above the great hall, thinking to watch the diners at the high table without notice and perhaps discover something of their mood. The small balcony was empty and deeply shadowed at the rear, with only a few discarded pages of music lying on the floor among the benches. There would be no entertainment for the duke's guests this evening and no dawdling over the meal. Conrig crouched behind a balustrade with upright members carved fancifully into Green Men and other rustic demons and studied the scene below.

Cresset-lamps and candles had been lit, but the lowering sun still shone through tall narrow windows, casting bars of red-gold light across the sixteen people sitting on the dais. The conversation was low-pitched, even along the sideboards where the knights and retainers ate, with only an occasional burst of nervous laughter from the younger ones.

Following the prince's instructions, Duke Tanaby had summoned the council attendees to table early, saying there would be only simple fare, and cautioning them against heavy drinking that might cloud their brains when such would be sorely needed later. Most of the high lords and great barons, Conrig noted with approval, were following Tanaby's example of sobriety and drinking water from the castle's renowned mineral spring--although Parlian Beorbrook, who was Earl Marshal of the Realm, and his lone surviving son Count Olvan loudly demanded refills of their bumpers of mead. Not even Vanguard dared deny them.

Numbers of the noble guests seemed to savor their meal as little as the Prince Heritor himself had done. Old Baron Toborgil Silverside had scarce touched the slices of meat on his silver trencher-plate, and the hovering pages found few takers for the steaming tureen of carp in nettle broth and the bowls of garnished frumenty and platters of apple and cherry tarts that were the final courses.

Neither Duchess Monda nor any other of Castle Vanguard's ladies were present. The only woman there--and her seated at the duke's right hand, by Bazekoy's Blazing Bones!--was the redoubtable Baroness Zeandrise, the Virago of Marley. She was still clad in her stained green doeskin riding habit with a divided skirt, and wore no veil and no head ornament but a glittering jeweled pick nearly the size of a dagger, transfixing her coil of frowsy grey hair.

Conrig knew that the baroness had only ridden into Vanguard at the last moment, when he and Tanaby had nearly despaired of her arrival. Her manner at table was taciturn and forbidding in spite of the duke's best efforts at hospitality. The prince had debated long with himself before including the Virago among those invited; but his godfather told him to swallow his southern prejudice against a belted female, reminding him that warriors of her sex were far from uncommon among the Didionite barbarians. And besides, Zeandrise Marley commanded fifteen knights and nearly a hundred mounted thanes . . .

He noted stout Count Munlow Ramscrest and his allies Bogshaw, Cloudfell, and Catclaw. And there were Tanaby's sons, Swanwick, Hawkhurst, and Grimstane. The wealthy mountain barons Kimbolton and Conistone, with estates bordering those of Beorbrook, were holding close conversation with their powerful overlord. At the far end of the table on the left sat Viscount Hartrig Skellhaven and his cousin Baron Ingo Holmrangel. Their seaside castles and fleets of armed cutters defended Cathra's far northeastern coast, and they were themselves rumored to be little better than pirates.

"So all of those invited did come after all," said a soft voice behind Prince Conrig.

He felt the hairs at the back of his neck prickle as a draft of chill air brought a familiar, green-fen scent of vetiver.

"It bodes well for the enterprise," the voice continued, almost purring with satisfaction.

"For you know that not even I could compel their alliance. Of course, they haven't accepted your proposal yet, but I believe that the odds are strongly in your favor--and your plan for taking care of any nay-sayers is most ingenious."

Still crouched low, Conrig dared not turn around. Suppressed fury tightened his throat. A Sending here? Now, at this critical juncture? Was the woman mad?

"If you're seen," he hissed, "I'm ruined! My brother Vra-Stergos is hidden away with my other Companions in the repository tower, and your Sending could only be attributed to me!"

"No one will see or hear me, my prince." She spoke with a hint of mockery. "Your accession to the throne is safe, untainted by any whiff of magical talent."

He craned about and saw a cloaked and hooded figure standing in a dark niche. The face was invisible, and the glowing moonstone sigil that enabled the Sending was out of sight. Slowly he withdrew from the railing and climbed to his feet, keeping well out of view of those below, and went to her. "Why are you here?" His whisper was brusque, to hide the fact that he had been badly startled.

"I come with good news, as well as some of less happy portent." Her hand reached out and caressed his cheek. "Affairs in Didion have fallen into place just as we hoped, and you may so inform your council of war. King Achardus will remain at the palace in Holt Mallburn during the crucial time. He has scant motive for traipsing abroad among the faminelands listening to the wails of hungry peasants or the mutterings of mutinous vassals. His sons Honigalus and Somarus are another matter, however. Both have taken ship to the south, probably to seek help from Stippen or another Continental nation in countering your blockade in the Dolphin Channel. Beynor and three senior members of the Glaumerie Guild are accompanying the Didionite princes. My dear brother is playing some game of his own, and he's probably being well paid for it. He has used a sigil to cast a strong spell of couverture over their vessel, and I cannot penetrate it."

Conrig muttered a quiet oath. "But you will be able to find out what they're up to?"

"Eventually. It may become necessary for me to empower another of my own Great Stones in order to learn his plans, but I hope I can use alternate means. The most powerful sigils are activated only through atrocious suffering, and their conjuring puts the user deep in debt to the Lights."

He felt the familiar thrill of dread at her mention of the awful Beaconfolk. "Lady, must you invoke those dire creatures? Is there no other manner of sorcery that will serve our purposes?"

"None so effective. I call upon the Coldlight Army as rarely as possible, since they're notorious for twisting petitions and conjurations to unwelcome outcomes. But we must find our what Honigalus and Somarus intend. They are the real power behind Achardus's throne, and they have powerful friends on the Continent. It would do you small good to triumph in the north while disaster strikes the southern underbelly of your unborn Sovereignty."

"No," Conrig admitted reluctantly. Most of the Cathran navy was at sea, enforcing the blockade against Didion, and the capital city of Cala on the south coast would be vulnerable to a lightning assault from mainland ports.

He was silent, considering other things that her words had brought to mind. Then: "Advise me, if you please. None of these council attendees, not even Duke Tanaby or the earl marshal himself, knows that the Edict of Sovereignty was as much your idea as mine. Would you have me tell them?"

A patronizing laugh. "I'm not the one who covets the ancient glory of Emperor Bazekoy, my prince. Warriors mistrust sorcery, and for good reason. It's best that they know nothing of our earlier . . . strategic consultations, for that might taint the sanctity of your great vision and weaken your authority. You must certainly tell your council of war how I intend to assist the invasion, and my reasons for doing so. But keep the rest secure in your own heart. The unification of High Blenholme is your own dream, after all, and none but you can fulfill it."

He felt sweat start out on his brow, not from doubt of his own abilities to persuade and command the others, but in a belated flush of apprehension at where this alliance with her might eventually lead.

"They will ask--my godfather and the earl marshal, at any rate-how you and I came to this marvelous friendship. Lady, what am I to tell them? They know we could never have met face-to-face. And even though we have made some use of my brother's arcane talent--"

"He has always been our go-between! You must convince the others of it. And see that Vra-Stergos is also convinced."

"I'm sure my brother has suspected that I possess the talent, that you and I bespoke each other through magical means long before your Sendings appeared to Gossy and me together at the hunting lodge. He's a timid soul, and he no doubt put the notion out of mind for fear of what the consequences would be. Nevertheless, my brother won't tell an outright lie about my talent, even to protect me. It would violate his vows to God and Saint Zeth."

"Then you must ensure that he does not officiously strive to tell the truth," she snapped, "while you say what you must to the duke and the earl marshal, and charge your own conscience. And if the new-hatched Doctor Arcanorum will not let be, then you must silence him."

"He's my older brother!" the prince exclaimed in horror. "I love him!"

"He is a man born with the talent, whose voice carries on the wind and whose mind solidifies the Sending. And by that token he is ineligible for your precious throne of Blencathra. As are you, Conrig Prince Heritor, if your vaunted truth be told."

"But I didn't know!" His whisper was desperate. "Not until--"

"Until I came," she said, unaware of the real state of things and knowing nothing of Snudge. "And I showed you how the audacious dream of your youth might be fulfilled. You listened well to my secret counsel, and your scheme prevailed. The Edict of Sovereignty was proclaimed. That its fulfillment was cruelly bungled by imbeciles was only a temporary setback. With my aid you shall set all to rights. And in the end who will care that you possess a small portion of the talent, or that a few necessary falsehoods were told in your great endeavor's fulfilling?"

He could think of no way to counter what she had said. Gossy would understand. He must understand . . .

"Very well. Leave me, then, lady. Be assured I'll do what is best."

Again she touched his cheek, smiling, then vanished. The scent of vetiver remained, sweet and woodsy.

Prey to unspeakable thoughts concerning his beloved brother, he crept back to the balustrade and looked down blindly on the hall for a few minutes more, until Tanaby Vanguard announced to the nobles at the high table that it was time to go to the solar and begin their conclave.

--from Conqueror's Moon by Julian May, copyright © 2004 Julian May, published by Ace Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not bad but not great

    Only thing i must say is that "If it were not for Sorceress Ullanoth i would have given up on series, but she alone is enough to keep you turning pages. The powerfull young mage 'Snudge' is also very interesting. If you would like to know more please feel free to contact me...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2003

    Excellent fantasy

    It should have been a peaceful place, the isolated island in the Boreal Sea but the four kingdoms that inhabit it have periodically gone to war. In the kingdom of Cathra, the heir to the throne Prince Conrig wants to be the high king when his father dies and all the other lands would become his vassal states. He lost his chance to enforce the Edict of Sovereignty when his father refuses to commit an army to invade Didion and instead orders a naval embargo which the seafaring nation easily avoids.............................. Now Conrig has made an alliance with the powerful Sorceress of Moss, who will help him in return for becoming the queen of her kingdom as his first vassal state. Her brother Prince Beynor is the heir and has made an alliance with Didion, giving to them what his sister has given to Conrig, the full use of the powerful magic they would need................................. Julian May, author of THE MANY COLORED LAND, is one of the best world builders in fantasy today. His latest sword and sorcery saga is of epic propositions and is told from the point of view of Snudge, Conrig¿s snoop, assassin and the one called upon when something nasty needs doing. CONQUEROR¿S MOON is the first installment in The Boreal Moon tales and readers will be hooked, anxiously wanting to read the next volume to find out how some of the dangling threads are sewn up....................... Harriet Klausner

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