In this postapocalyptic tale, the scattered remnants of the Order struggle to keep ancient technologies alive, despite the efforts of the thuggish Watch to destroy them. Relic Master Galen Harn has lost his powerful extrasensory abilities in an accident, but he struggles on with the help of his half-trained teenage apprentice, Raffi. Galen hears rumors that the Crow, one of the founders of their civilization, may still survive in Tasceron, "the burning city, the city of the Makers.... a web of a million streets, alleys, bridges, ruins." He and Raffi set out to find the city, accompanied by Carys (who, unbeknownst to them, is a Watch agent) and one of the catlike Sekoi. This first volume in the Relic Master Quartet is a gritty and enjoyable tale of adventure, poised on the dividing line between science fiction and fantasy; Dial will release the three subsequent installments (originally published in the U.K., beginning in 1998) in June, July, and August. While perhaps not as captivating as Incarceron and Sapphique, this should easily please Fisher's fans, as well as those hungry for dystopian reading material. Ages 12–up. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—In this quartet opener, Galen is a relic master who has recently lost his powers, and he must rely on his apprentice Raffi, whose mystical abilities are still developing. They are sent on a quest by a bandit lord who wants them to find a nonhuman Sekoi thief in exchange for the return of a precious relic. The Sekoi seems to be traveling to the city of Tasceron, which has been plunged into perpetual gloom. Galen hopes to find a cure for his condition in this city that was once home to the relic masters and is now a stronghold of the Watch. Along the way they meet Carys, a young woman who claims to be journeying to Tasceron to rescue her father from the Watch but who is in fact a spy. Fisher's flawed characters are more accessible than fantasy heroes with incredible powers. In this moody book full of mist, swamps, and darkness, the threat of the Watch hangs over the secret relic masters and innocent villagers alike. Besides the Watch, the characters face challenges ranging from mystical riddles to fearsome creatures. The author's earlier successes and the general popularity of dystopic fiction should guarantee an audience for this one. On top of all that, it's a great read.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
VOYA - Walter Hogan
Fisher, author of the best-selling Incarceron (Dial, 2010/VOYA February 2010) and its sequel, Sapphique (Dial, 2011/VOYA December, 2010), published The Book of the Crow quartet in the U.K. between 1998 and 2001. The series is just now becoming available in the U.S, retitled Relic Master. All four volumes are being issued during the summer of 2011. The reverse of each volume's dust wrapper features a large, colorful map of one-quarter of the Relic Master terrain, to encourage readers to collect all four books. Fisher excels in the creation of rich secondary worlds. Here, her swords-and-sorcery setting is Anara, a world which has fallen into darkness and fear following the overthrow of an enlightened emperor. A brutal regime now employs the dreaded Watch to maintain absolute control while attempting to root out all traces of the Makers, ancient builders of the great civilization now lying in ruins. In The Dark City, Book 1, a fugitive keeper of the old Order, Galen, and his young apprentice, Raffi, seek a legendary relic that might renew their land. Along the way, they are joined by Carys, a girl assigned by the Watch to spy on the keeper but whose loyalties begin to shift as she journeys with Galen and Raffi. The old master and his two young companions manage to infiltrate the very heart of the Watch in the haunted, crumbling city of Tasceron. Their quest through a very dark landscape achieves a partial victory and concludes at a bright interval, leaving readers eager for the adventure to continue. Like Incarceron and Sapphique, the Relic Master series is set in a grim, dark, medieval world, connected by a portal to a more advanced civilization. Other similarities include a deep, Tolkien-esque back history, and third person narration from multiple viewpoints. The main difference between these two fantasy epics is that Relic Master is more approachable for young readers, without the philosophical complexities generated by Fisher's sentient prison-world, Incarceron. The Relic Master quartet will please fantasy lovers of both sexes, from middle school up. (Relic Master) Reviewer: Walter Hogan
Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
Can Galen, a Master of the Order and Keeper of Relics, and his sixteen-year-old apprentice Raffi save Anara, a world mysteriously heading towards devastation? They need to find the secret relic to save their world before the governing Watch uncovers it. In this dystopian fantasy, the Watch attempts to destroy the last remnants of the ancient Order which originally defined their fantasy world. Can the ancient relics that emit advanced powers enable Galen and Raffi to harness the great energy as a force for good again? This story is filled with mystery and adventure, as good fights evil. A table of contents page shows that the story is told in five sections. Each section is preceded by a black and white numbered illustration and a relative statement. Additional illustrations and statements also appear within the sections. The first illustration and statement set the tone for the novel: "The world is not dead. The world is alive and breathes. The world is the whim of God, and her journey is forever. Litany of the Makers." This story is the first book of the "Relic Master Series." Additional books include: The Lost Heiress, The Hidden Coronet, and The Margrave. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith
A gripping fantasy adventure, the first of a tetralogy, satisfies but does not surprise.
Raffi, the novice "scholar" sworn to the surly Relic Master Galen, finds little joy in their now-outlawed Order's sacred task of seeking out the ancient technology of the vanished Makers. After one such exploding "relic" stripped Galen of his mystical powers, a vicious thief lord bullies the pair into pursuing a member of the catlike Sekoi race into the post-apocalyptic city of Tasceron, which just might harbor a magic powerful enough to heal Galen. Meanwhile, the Watch, fanatical enemies of the Order, has set one of their murderous agents on their trail... Fisher takes a hoary science-fiction trope—the Lost Colony revering the ancestral "Starmen" as gods and their forgotten gadgets as holy objects—and melds it with the standard quest fantasy, complete with the archetypal naive-yet-powerful apprentice, the wise-but-bitter mentor, the roguish spy-with-a-heart-of-gold and the vaguely elfin alien. Yet her mastery of detailed and exotic worldbuilding, every scene hinting at intriguing secrets and untold back story, blends these speculative staples into a tale redolent with humor, wonder and suspense. Genre-savvy readers will undoubtedly predict every plot twist pages in advance; nonetheless, they will also demand the sequels.
Well-crafted storytelling provides more than the sum of its parts.(Fantasy. 11-16)