Covenant Rising: Book One of the Dreamtimeby Stan Nicholls
In a land where magic defines the social order, the ruling tyrants alone control the most powerful sorcery ...
One of the last of a massacred race of warriors an unparalleled swordsman magically afflicted by spells of blind, uncontrollable rage Reeth Caldason wanders Bhealfa seeking vengeance ... and freedom from his strange malady. Now word has
In a land where magic defines the social order, the ruling tyrants alone control the most powerful sorcery ...
One of the last of a massacred race of warriors an unparalleled swordsman magically afflicted by spells of blind, uncontrollable rage Reeth Caldason wanders Bhealfa seeking vengeance ... and freedom from his strange malady. Now word has come from a sorcerer's apprentice of a mysterious Covenant in the capital city, a secretive society that may provide the escape Reeth desires. But forming an uneasy alliance with the youthful messenger could ultimately prove disastrous for the road they musttravel together leads into the sordid heart of a perilous conspiracy of treachery, tyranny, necromancy, and death.
The Covenant Rising, the first book in Stan Nicholls's Dreamtime trilogy, has all the trappings of a classic fantasy epic: a cast of fascinating, unforgettable characters; a richly described and historied realm saturated with magic; and a desperate quest of massive proportions so improbable it just might work!
Central characters include Reeth Caldason, a legendary outlaw afflicted with an arcane curse, who is one of the last remaining members of a warrior race; Seerah Ardacris, an imperial agent set up by her own government to take the fall for the death of an incompetent highborn in her charge; and Kutch Pirathon, a young sorcerer's apprentice who witnesses the murder of his master. Although all three characters are involved in their own personal journeys, they end up in the capital city of Bhealfa, an oppressed province of the Gath Tampoor Empire. Once there they enter into an uneasy alliance with a group of rogue sorcerers known as the Covenant, and become pawns in a plot that could not only topple empires but also birth a new world!
While Nicholls -- a highly regarded reviewer, journalist and author in the U.K. -- may not be a household name in the States yet, his status will change once fantasy fans read The Covenant Rising. This enthralling and fast-paced story really does have all the elements of a classic fantasy tale: despotic empires, idealistic revolutionaries, insane rulers, cold-blooded murder, political intrigue, ill-fated romance, sorcerers and paladins, fantastical beasts, and magical marvels -- in short, it's a great read! Paul Goat Allen
Read an Excerpt
The Covenant RisingBook One of the Dreamtime
By Nicholls, Stan
It was a place of cheap magic.
A swarm of tiny sphinxes gathered, fluttering just above her head. Snapping jaws, whipping wings, curling tails. They weren't convincing. Their colours were wrong, and up close they were semi-transparent.
Serrah swatted irritably, her hand passing through them as if they were dawn mist. They disintegrated into countless infinitesimal specks, like glowing rust. The tips of their spread wings were the last to go, popping out of existence in little burnished puffs.
'We going to skulk here all night, Ardacris?' Phosian hissed.
He hid next to her, but the alley was too dark to make out his features. His garb, like hers, was uniformly black, with a silk mask covering nose and mouth. Where flesh showed, it had been smeared with ash. The sheen of their blades was dimmed by grease and soot.
Serrah inwardly bridled at his familiarity and the disregard of her rank. But in deference to his connections she whispered only, 'Patience.'
Phosian sighed. Serrah needed no light to picture the conceited expression on his callow face.
Nothing much stirred. The street was a midden lined with hovels, all gloom and demented angles. Its glistening cobbles were silvered by a half moon. Flies teemed, the air stank. Now and again a low-priced glamour walked, crawled, flew or drifted by, waning, and wasignored.
The house they watched was grander than the others and set apart. Two guards were visible at its front. There were more at the sides and rear. Again Serrah wondered if her modest forces would be enough.
'Think our strength's up to it?' Phosian asked, hinting criticism of her.
She was struck by the idea that he might have read her mind. But she knew such magic was likely mythical. And if it did exist it was so rare even his relatives probably couldn't afford it. 'Numbers aren't everything,' she said. 'I'd take one seasoned fighter over a regiment of conscripts any day.'
'And what would you call those inside, seasoned or green?' Sarcasm dripped.
'Ruthless bastards,' Serrah replied, still seething at having him foisted on her. 'But I've a team I can trust.' With one exception, she thought, adding, steely-toned, 'It's taken weeks to get to tonight. Nothing's going to jeopardise it.'
His silent contempt was almost tangible.
By knowing where to look, and straining to see, several others in her group could be faintly made out, grey against the blackness. They were in position.
'It's time,' she decided. 'You know what to do. Stay close.'
He gave an indolent grunt.
She had a short piece of twine, and worried its end with thumb and forefinger, as though flipping a coin. Suddenly the tip glowed cherry red. Less conspicuous than a naked flame and generating no heat, it was a very basic glamour; just an ember, but enough for those alert to it. Serrah quickly signalled, then pinched it out.
The nearest guard, a shaven-headed colossus, stood gazing at the night sky. His broadsword was thrust into the ground at his feet, his palm absently caressing the hilt. Further back, a leaner companion prowled with meagre enthusiasm.
A sound cut the air. High, smooth, and abruptly stilled by a soft impact.
An arrow quivered in the big man's chest. He looked down at it dumbly. The sound repeated and his comrade dropped. A second bolt winged into the giant. Arms outstretched, he fell heavily.
'Move!' Serrah barked.
Dashing out of the shadows, limbs pumping, she ran for the house. Phosian chased her, his scrawny form contrasting with her athletic build. As they arrived at the entrance, two more of her crew slipped from the darkness to join them. Like Phosian, they hefted axes.
The double doors were oak with iron bracings. At her sign, the battering commenced. Almost immediately the rest of her team began pounding at the back of the house.
Serrah scanned the street, feeling vulnerable. Imperial agents weren't exactly popular in this quarter and she half expected to see locals rushing in to take issue.
But she was more worried by what might be waiting inside.
The doors gave.
A dimly lit passageway stretched ahead of them. There was another door at its end. A corridor was set in the righthand wall. Serrah motioned for one of the party to keep watch, then she, Phosian and the fourth group-member carefully advanced, weapons drawn.
Something came out of the side passage. They froze.
It slinked, ebony fur bristling, a mass of fangs, claws and ill temper. Its hard, tawny eyes regarded them haughtily. It let out a wheezing snarl.
The barbcat was waist-high to Serrah. Had it stood upright it could have laid its forepaws on her shoulders while it tore her throat out.
Absolutely still, they watched as a second cat padded into the hall. It was just as big, just as irate. Its ears pricked tensely, its ample pink tongue lolled.
Serrah couldn't be sure about the creatures. She took a chance and edged forward.
'Chief . . .' one of her team cautioned.
She paid no attention and moved in on the nearest cat.
Her response was instant. She fell into a half crouch, simultaneously swinging her sword up, two-handed, teeth gritted with effort, carving an arc. It crossed paths with the slavering animal, slicing cleanly through its body. But not as though it were flesh.
The bloodless halves of the cat hung in the air for a second, then dissolved into golden shards and nothingness.
Rising, Serrah expelled a breath. 'Sentinel glamours,' she declared, unnecessarily. And well made, she judged. Costly magic.
The other barbcat turned and loped back to its alcove den. They ignored it and readied themselves.
'Let's move,' Phosian urged testily.
Serrah glared at him. She swung her boot at the door. It flew open. Continues...
Excerpted from The Covenant Rising by Nicholls, Stan Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Stan Nicholls is best known for the internationally acclaimed Orcs: First Blood series. His journalism has appeared in Locus, SFX, the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mirror, Time Out, Sight and Sound, and Rolling Stone, among many other publications. He currently lives in the West Midlands, U.K., with his wife, the writer Anne Gay.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Bhealfa is a caste society in which magic defines status. Authorities use spells to keep the masses in line and watch everyone through all-seeing scythe bowls. While the eccentric Prince Melyobar and his retinue sail in his movable dwelling to avoid Death, the Gath Tampoor Empire uses the Bhealfa citizenry as it has for twenty years as sword and sorcery fodder in its war with the Rintarah Empire, the previous conquerors and wasters of Bhealfa populace................................... Reeth Caldason seeks magical relief from the curse he suffers from that turns him into a blood raging mass killer if not chained, but learns the wizard he seeks is dead. The wizard¿s apprentice Kutch Pirathon mentions the Covenant, which gives the beleaguered Reeth a sliver of hope. Another visitor Dulian Karr, paying respect to the deceased, wants to liberate Bhealfa from the two empires that rotate subjugation; he suggests that Kutch and Reeth team up as they seek the same requirement, a master mage. The epic adventure for freedom has begun.............................. In many ways THE COVENANT RISING is a typical epic fantasy, but is also much more. The story line contains the usual sword and sorcery elements throughout, but Stan Nicholls blends them into an intriguing societal arrangement sort of like India¿s caste society within a magically based Orwellian 1984. Reeth and Kutch are terrific protagonists with neither trusting the other though needing one another if they are to gain their wish. The freeing of incarcerated female military captain Serrah Ardacris, whose imprisonment adds to the feel of a real society, increases the unease of the ¿alliance¿ between this dynamic dual. Thought provoking, Mr. Nicholls furbishes a terrific opening tale in his Dreamtime trilogy.......................... Harriet Klausner
I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I got the next two in the series. The characters are steadily developed and the story line pulls you in from the beginning.