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Strong, elegant writing lifts Bryan's fantasy debut. Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Lys, the Young God's forces captured and imprisoned the evil Serpent. Now, a thousand years later, the Serpent's forces are rising again, determined to defeat the Young God's paladins, the Knights of the Rose, and return the great deity to power. Duke Urien leads the opposition against Serpent ally Clodovec, the king of Lys. When Clodovec has Urien poisoned, Urien's daughter, Averil, becomes evil's next target. Averil flees with the Knights of the Rose and befriends Gereint, a commoner whose magical talent could be the greatest in generations—if he manages to learn how to control its tremendous power. In order to stand against the Serpent's forces, Averil and Gereint must bargain with ancient forces long held taboo. Such a bargain, once struck, could leave Averil and her people vulnerable to their own allies. In the crowded epic fantasy field, Bryan's series opener stands out with its intriguing characters and a vivid story rich with potential. (Mar.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.