The Barnes & Noble Review
Myrren's Gift, the first volume of Fiona McIntosh's Quickening trilogy, is a storytelling tour de force that revolves around the ill-fated life of the son of a legendary general and a very special gift from an accused witch sentenced to death.
King Magnus of Morgravia and his famous general, Fergys Thirsk, have been best friends for most of their illustrious lives. But when Fergys is mortally wounded in battle, Magnus vows to take care of his best friend's young son, Wyl, and forge a relationship between Wyl and his own son, Prince Celimus. The King hopes that the two young boys will become best friends -- blood brothers -- just like their fathers and that Wyl will carry on the much-heralded Thirsk name and become the general of Celimus' army. But from the start the boys detest one another and Celimus, a vicious and conniving egomaniac, vows that once he is king the young Thirsk will be promptly assassinated. But what Celimus doesn't realize is that Wyl has been given an extraordinary power, one that continues on even after death…
Reminiscent of Raymond E. Feist's classic Prince of the Blood and John Marco's Tyrants and Kings trilogy (The Jackal of Nar, The Grand Design, and The Saints of the Sword), McIntosh's utterly readable Myrren's Gift is a book fantasy fans will have a hard time putting down . With a cast of fully realized characters and enthralling plotlines that include supernatural blessings, doomed romance, an imminent war, and a desperate quest -- this fantasy has it all. Highly recommended. Paul Goat Allen
Fantasy fans will welcome Australian author McIntosh's gripping first installment in her Quickening trilogy, a tale of the eternal struggle between good and evil filled with magic, blood and jealousy. When 14-year-old Wyl Thirsk inherits the generalship of the Morgravian legions on his father's early death, he's fortunate to possess both the good habits and wise judgment that have helped the Thirsk family remain commanders of the legions for generations. These virtues will serve him well in his dealings with King Magnus of Morgravia's wayward son, Prince Celimus, whom Wyl is duty-bound to protect. After both boys achieve adulthood, the cruel Celimus orders Wyl to witness the torture and execution of a young woman, Myrren, accused of being a witch because she has mismatched eyes. Before her death, Myrren passes on to the empathetic Wyl a most unusual gift. Some readers may feel frustrated by the lack of information about Myrren or the purpose of her gift, though no doubt future volumes will fill in the gaps in an otherwise delightful and fast-moving story. Agent, Chris Lotts. (Mar. 15) Forecast: A bestseller in Australia, this fantasy faces stiffer competition in the U.S., but a blurb from Robin Hobb will give it a lift. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Following the tradition of his father before him, young Wyl Thirsk becomes general of the Morgravian army and sworn companion to Crown Prince Celimus, a cruel and ruthless monarch-to-be. When a dying witch gives Wyl a "gift" for his kindness to her, he discovers his destiny is he will be the only one who can save his country from destruction by its power-hungry leader. This series opener establishes McIntosh as a talented storyteller with the ability to create strong characters and a compelling plot. For most fantasy collections. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
First of a fantasy trilogy from Down Under. When 14-year-old Wyl Thirsk's father dies defending King Magnus of Morgravia, Wyl must take up his hereditary duties as leader of the army. Unfortunately, Crown Prince Celimus is devious and arrogant, and constantly seeks to humiliate honest Wyl. Celimus orders the death by torture of accused witch Myrren, whose chief fault is that her eyes are different colors. Wyl, forced to witness the horror, admires how bravely Myrren meets her doom. As he offers her water, Myrren bequeaths Wyl her huge dog, Knave-and, dying, bestows another, unknown gift upon Wyl. Soon, Wyl acquires a friend: bright, loyal sewer-cleaner Fynch with his odd affinity for Knave-generally hostile, the dog is clearly much more than just very smart. Some time later, as Magnus lies dying, Celimus conceives the perfect way to rid himself of Wyl and achieve his ambition of conquering neighboring Briavel. He orders Wyl to arrange a marriage between Celimus and Princess Valentyna, threatening to torture Wyl's beloved sister Ylena if he doesn't cooperate. Wyl's companions, though, are mercenaries whose leader, Romen Koreldy, has orders to murder Wyl. But Wyl, falling instantly in love with Valentyna, reveals Celimus' plots to King Valor. Inevitably, Wyl must fight Koreldy for his life, though the pair make a blood pact that the survivor will protect Ylena; and only as Koreldy's blade cuts into his heart does Wyl begin to understand the true nature of Myrren's gift. The relentless, twisty plotting fails to disguise the protagonist's annoying inability to learn anything from his mistakes; still, for susceptible readers, Australian author McIntosh's debut offers full sensory immersion.
Read an Excerpt
Myrren's Gift The Quickening Book One
By Fiona McIntosh
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2005 Fiona McIntosh
All right reserved.
Gueryn looked to his left at the solemn profile of the the lad who rode quietly next to him and felt another pang of concern for Wyl Thirsk, Morgravia's new General of the Legion. His father's death was as untimely as it was unexpected. Why had they all believed Fergys Thirsk would die of old age? His son was too young to take such a title and responsibility onto his shoulders. And yet he must; custom demanded it. Gueryn thanked the stars for giving the King wisdom enough to appoint a temporary commander until Wyl was of an age where men would respect him. The name of Thirsk carried much weight but no soldier would follow a near-fourteen-year-old into battle.
Hopefully, there would be no war for many years now. According to the news filtering back from the capital, Morgravia had inflicted a terrible price on Briavel's young men this time. No, Gueryn decided, there would be no fighting for a while ... long enough for Wyl to turn into the fine young man he promised to be.
Gueryn regarded the boy, with his distinctive flame-colored hair and squat frame. He so badly needed his father's guidance, the older man thought regretfully.
Wyl had taken the news of his father's death stoically in front of the household, making Gueryn proud of the boy as he watched him comfort his younger sister. But later, behind closed doors, he had held the trembling shoulders of the lad and offered what comfort he could. The youngster had worshiped his father, and who could blame him -- most of Morgravia's men had as well. It was especially sad that the boy had lost his father having not seen him in so many moons.
Ylena, at nine, was still young enough to be distracted by her loving nursemaid as well as her dolls and the new kitten Gueryn had had the foresight to grab at the local market as soon as he was delivered the news. Wyl would not be so easily diverted and Gueryn could already sense the numbing grief hardening within the boy. Wyl was a serious, complex child, and this would push him further into himself. Gueryn wondered whether being forced to the capital was such a good idea right now.
The Thirsk home in Argorn had been a happy one despite the head of the household having been absent so often. Gueryn had agreed several years back to take on what seemed the ridiculously light task of watching over the raising of the young Thirsk. But he had known from the steely gaze of the old warrior that this was a role the General considered precious and he would entrust this job only to his accomplished captain, whose mind was as sharp as the blade he wielded with such skill. Gueryn understood and with a quiet regret at leaving his beloved Legion, he had moved to live among the rolling hills of Argorn, among the lush southern counties of Morgravia.
He became Wyl's companion, military teacher, academic tutor, and close friend. As much as the boy adored his father, the General spent most of his year in the capital, and it was Gueryn who filled the gap of Fergys Thirsk's absence. It was of littl wonder then that student and mentor had become so close.
"Don't watch me like that, Gueryn. I can almost smell your anxiety."
"How are you feeling about this?" the soldier asked, ignoring the boy's rebuke.
Wyl turned in his saddle to look at his friend, regarding the handsome former captain. A flush of color to his pale, freckled face betrayed his next words. "I'm feeling fine."
"Be honest with me of all people, Wyl."
The lad looked away and they continued their steady progress toward the famed city of Pearlis. Gueryn waited, knowing his patience would win out. It had been just days since Wyl's father had died. The wound was still raw and seeping. Wyl could hide nothing from him.
"I wish I didn't have to go," Wyl finally said, and the soldier felt the tension in his body release somewhat. They could talk about it now and he could do what he could to make Wyl feel easier about his arrival in the strange, sprawling, often overwhelming capital. "But I know this was my father's dying wish," Wyl added, trying to cover his sigh.
"The King promised he would bring you to Pearlis. And he had good reason to do so. Magnus accepts that you are not ready for the role in anything but title yet but Pearlis is the only place you can learn your job and make an impression on the men you will one day command." Gueryn's tone was gentle, but the words implacable. Wyl grimaced. "You can't stamp your mark from sleepy Argorn," Gueryn added, wishing they could have had a few months -- weeks even -- just to get the boy used to the idea of having no parents.
Gueryn thought of the mother. Fragile and pretty, she had loved Fergys Thirsk and his gruff ways with a ferocity that belied her sweet, gentle nature. She had succumbed, seven years previous and after a determined fight, to the virulent coughing disease that had swept through Morgravia's south. If she had not been weakened from Ylena's long and painful birth she might have pulled through. The disease killed many in the household, mercifully sparing the children.
Although he rarely showed it outwardly, Wyl seemed to miss her in his own reserved way. For all his rough-andtumble boyishness, Gueryn thought, Wyl obviously adored women. The ladies of the household loved him back, spoiling him with their affections but often whispering pitying words about his looks.
There was no escaping the fact that Wyl Thirsk was not a handsome boy. The crown of thick orange hair did nothing to help an otherwise plain, square face, and those who remembered the boy's grandfather said that Wyl resembled the old man in uncanny fashion -- his ugliness was almost as legendary as his soldiering ability ...
Excerpted from Myrren's Gift by Fiona McIntosh Copyright © 2005 by Fiona McIntosh. Excerpted by permission.
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