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Silver Wolf, Black Falcon

Silver Wolf, Black Falcon

4.0 3
by Dennis L. McKiernan

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Dennis McKiernan's newest epic, Silver Wolf, Black Falcon, takes us back to Mithgar in a time of great peril--as an Elf and an Impossible Child try to save this ravaged land from a doom long ago prophesied....

Praise for Dennis McKiernan's novels:

"Engrossing...Fans of Tolkienesque fantasy...will enjoy this lavishly told quest."--Library


Dennis McKiernan's newest epic, Silver Wolf, Black Falcon, takes us back to Mithgar in a time of great peril--as an Elf and an Impossible Child try to save this ravaged land from a doom long ago prophesied....

Praise for Dennis McKiernan's novels:

"Engrossing...Fans of Tolkienesque fantasy...will enjoy this lavishly told quest."--Library Journal

"Provocative...appeals to lovers of classic fantasy--the audience for David Eddings and Terry Brooks."--Booklist

"Imaginative action...there are no lulls in McKiernan's story."--Columbus Dispatch

"McKiernan's narratives have heart and fire and drive. His images and characters bring the power of archetypes to his exciting adventure stories."--Katherine Kerr

"Once McKiernan's got you, he never lets you go."--Jennifer Roberson

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Popular fantasy writer McKeirnan brings his Mithgar series to a triumphant conclusion with this sprawling story. Right after noting that the great story arc of the series is "the struggle of those who believe in liberty and freedom... against those who would take those things away," McKeirnan introduces two babies, both born under miraculous circumstances and expected to bring about great changes in Mithgar, as predicted by Oracles and ancient prophecy. First is Kutsen Yong, born of a dead woman. Marked with the Yong, the sign of the Dragon, he grows into an arrogant and pitiless lord, the prophesied Mage Warrior King who will command Dragons and rule the world. Meanwhile, good-hearted Bair, the first child born to an Elven mother in Mithgar in millennia, is the long-awaited Impossible Child, "the Rider of the Planes who will bear the Silver Sword to Mithgar when evil comes to the world." At 16, Bair joins the Elf Aravan in his search for the evil Necromancer Ydral--High Priest of a cult determined to free the god Gyphon from his prison deep in the earth and help him defeat Adon, Mithgar's defender of free will. The novel moves slowly toward the final confrontation, building tension with bloody combat and magical battles as Aravan and Bair search for the knowledge and weapons needed to stand against Kutsen Yong and Ydral. McKeirnan's fans--as well as those of Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind--will enjoy his usual array of thin-skinned power-mad evil-doers, hearty, honorable good guys and grand magical fireworks. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
This is high fantasy at its best. McKiernan proves his mastery of the storytelling art in this new and concluding novel of the 12-volume Mithgar series. Young Bair, a shape shifter and the "impossible child" born of Elf and Human on the world of Mithgar, has a destiny to fulfill as the "Rider of the Planes." He is the only man to be able to cross between all five planes (which contain parallel worlds with different species) since the god Adon Sundered the Ways. While the world braces once again for war and the fiend Ydral guides the young, arrogant Dragon King to conquering the world, Bair and his friend Aravan continue Aravan's thousand year-plus quest to take revenge on the "yellow-eyed man." The Dragon King, possessing the Dragon Stone that controls all the Dragons on Mithgar, continues in his evil march to destroy the High King residing in Peltar. Ydral plots against all to bring the dreaded god Gyphon back to power, bringing a reign of terror with Ydral as Regent. The complex plot twists into a brilliant climax, rich in the history of McKiernan's series. It is a fitting ending to a favorite epic fantasy. (Violence.) (Mithgar series) KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Penguin Putnam, Roc, 534p., $6.99. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Lynn Rosser; Freelance Writer, Asheville, NC , September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
Library Journal
These 11 tales, set in the land of Mithgar, take place at an inn called the One-Eyed Crow. Whether offering whimsical "proof" for the existence of giants or relating a somber tale of war's false glory, the author of The Eye of the Hunter (LJ 9/15/92) displays a genuine flair for pacing, characters, and drama-all essential to the storyteller's art. A good choice for most fantasy collections.
Roland Green
McKiernan here uses his increasingly popular world of Mithgar as a background for 11 tales told in an inn called the One-Eyed Crow by a bunch of storytellers gathered to practice their art. Particularly appealing are "The Thornwalker and the Wolf," "The Dammsel," and "The Ruffian and the Giant." As in the rest of his creations, McKiernan employs classic fantasy elements, using them better in each new work. He also reveals an unexpected deftness at writing short fantasy stories, which is more than can be said of a good many of his colleagues and may help him avoid turning good short stories into less than good novels as the years roll on. Any McKiernan fan is bound to ask for and be pleased by this one. Fantasy collections, proceed accordingly.
Kirkus Reviews
Latest—and, according to the author, possibly the last—yarn set in Mithgar (The Dragonstone, 1996, etc.), as gnarled and formulaic as all the others. This time, the immortal elves Riatha and Aravan are in charge of Bair, the Impossible Child (anyone who's baby-sat a three-year-old will know how that feels). Together, in fulfillment of an obscure prophesy, and naturally with time running out, they have to save the world from sundry dreadful dangers. If this sounds exactly like all the other Mithgar yarns—it is. Fans will pounce, others will find better amusement elsewhere.

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Penguin Group (USA)
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4.52(w) x 6.52(h) x 1.51(d)

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Chapter One


Year's Long Day, 5E983
[Twenty-Six years Past]

The first twinges of contraction began just after the Ha-Ji dawn came to the Steppes of Moko, and young Teiji, her belly swollen large, was escorted to the birthing tent, where the midwives awaited. They placed Teiji on a birthing stool, seated above a shallow pit lined with a mat made of woven straw. Along with the biting stick, the juice of the yellow poppy was prepared to ease the pain were it to become severe. Incense was set to smoldering, filling the yurt with a soothing scent. Water was boiled and swaddling cloths made ready, as well as cloths to clean up the blood and to deal with other needs. And they laid out precious scented oils and soaps for the cleansing after. Too, they discreetly brought in the brace of ceremonial blades: a bronze delivery knife to be used in the event the mother failed and her belly needed to be opened; an iron deliverance knife should the child be malformed, the throat to be cut, the curse quickly laid to keep it from tainting the tribe. But none expected either blade to be used, for after all, this was Ha-Ji, the longest day of the year, an auspicious time if ever there was one.

    Chakun, who had just turned eleven and was attending her first ever birthing duty—she would be married in a year or so, and no doubt be with child quickly after, and so she needed to know these things—came running back from the high steppe stream, water-skin in hand. The chili water was for the cooling of Teiji's brow; it would be Chakun'stask all day.

    Throughout the rest of the camp, tea was brewed to be sipped by the women of the tribe, and they settled back to wait. As to the men of the tribe of Cholui Chang, they would not ride their sturdy ponies across the steppes that day but would instead dance 'round the central fire and drink strong ammall palro ch'agi—fermented mare's milk—for Teiji, the youngest wife of the chuyohan, was to give birth.

    As dawn came to the village of Yugu, there on the shores of the Jingarian Sea, Wangu set out in his small craft, the battened sails angled to make the most of the early-morning offshore breeze, for surely on this the longest day of the year he would haul aboard a catch worthy of being taken to the grand market in the great port city of Janjong.

    He was headed for the waters off the eastern shore of Shàbíng, the small rocky isle standing like a sentinel on the edge of the deep abyss. And as he sailed he readied his many-twined silk line; perhaps this new one was heavy enough to withstand the pull of even the greatest of fish, unlike the last one, which had broken under the strain of something large and unseen.

    In the yurt, Teiji's labor became more intense, her groaning more pronounced—though her water had not broken—while outside the sun rode up in the sky, the long day growing hotter with each passing candlemark. Young Chakun was sent yet again to the cold stream to refill the waterskin and, as she had done before, she passed wide of the men drinking 'round the campfire, avoiding their sidelong glances and disturbing comments.

    Wangu tied his new silk line to a short length of precious metal chain linked to his greatest hook, and baited the claw with the mesh bag filled with fish entrails. He said a brief prayer to the gods of the deeps and cast hook and chain overboard, paying out the heavy silken line, the impaled net of intestines disappearing into the depths beneath. Not far behind Wangu the tilted crag of Shàbíng jutted up out of the sea, the rock face stern and unyielding as it stared down into the abyss below.

    It was just after midmorning when Teiji's water finally broke. Chakun, soothing Teiji's brow with a cool damp cloth, looked on in amazement as the liquid gushed out, a pinkish tinge to the flow. As the midwives got Teiji to her feet to walk her about in the tent yet again in order to bring on the child, Chakun was given the task of replacing the delivery mat in the pit and carrying the soiled one to the central fire and casting it in. When the wisp of a girl pitched the dampened delivery mat into the curling flames, the men gave a great loud cry of gladness, for it meant Teiji was nearer to bearing. The flames bloomed up to consume the straw, yet Chakun did not tarry to see it burn but instead hurried swiftly away, for some of the men were staring at her, their wide drunken grins unsettling. She got back to the birthing tent just as Old Tal took her hand from between Teiji's legs after measuring the amount of dilation, and then the elderly woman frowned and glanced up at the other midwives and shook her head: "Not even a little finger's width." Chakun felt a stab of fear in her breast, for this was ill news, or so she deemed. And even though Teiji had not heard these words above her own moaning agony, still her groans seemed to come all the louder.

    Tzzzz ...! the line hissed out as something took the fish-gut-baited great hook and ran.

    "Ai!" shouted Wangu in glee. "I have you now!" And he reached for the free-running silk and caught it up, only to cry out in pain and jerk away as the gossamer cable scored against his palms. Leaning over the stern board, he plunged his forearms into the brine of the Jingarian Sea, the salt stinging but soothing his rope-burned hands.

    And yet leaning over, he watched as the line ran out and out, and then—Tung!—it twanged as it snapped taut, the knot around the aft cleat holding fast. But then whatever had taken the bait began hauling the boat backward through the sea, water churning madly and slopping over the board.

    Wangu's eyes widened in fright. "What have I caught?" he shouted to the sea. "Or what is it that has caught me?"

    The sun rose up through the skies, crossing the zenith at last to move into the west, as Longday slowly passed. And in the birthing tent of the tribe of Cholui Chang, Chakun covered her ears to shut out Teiji's screams, but still she could hear them, in spite of having her eyes shut as well.

    And as two sturdy midwives more dragged than walked Teiji within the tent, the other midwives looked at one another with great concern, for the young wife was in dry labor, and still the signs of delivery had not changed: the baby would not come.

    Once again they placed Teiji on the birthing stool, and Old Tal set her ear to the swollen belly and listened in spite of the shrieks. And she pressed her hands to the flesh and lightly squeezed and pushed here and there, and Teiji screamed all the louder.

    The old woman then turned to the others. "The child is alive and in the proper position ... not trying to come hindwards to the world."

    And then Tal prepared another measure of the juice of the poppy to quench Teiji's hard pain, though the last yellow dose had seemed to have little if any effect.

    Backward flew the boat, water churning over the stern. Wangu bailed frantically in a desperate attempt to stem the gushing tide. And just as he thought he would have to cut his precious new line to keep the boat from foundering ... whatever had taken the bait stopped in its run.

    Perhaps it is dead.

    Still the fisherman bailed.

    Do not be stupid, Wangu. It now but pauses in the drag of the boat.... Aiee! What if it plots dark evil?

    Wangu madly bailed.

    And then from underneath something struck the craft a great blow, pitching Wangu from his feet. He struggled up in time to look over the starboard wale, and glimpsed the great grey shape as it swam down and away.

    "Aie!" groaned Wangu. "It is a shâyú."

    Once again the boat was hauled backward through the Jingarian Sea. And Wangu readied his knife. Precious or not, if the monster I saw decides to dive down into the abyss and drag the boat under, I will cut the line.

    Even so, it galled him, for did not "Wangu" mean "stubborn"? His father, Kwàile, had given him that name for being resolute, even as a child. And the great shark would bring much gold in Jan-jong, could he but land it, for its fins made the best of medicinal soups, while the heart and liver and other organs would bring much on the market as well, especially the eyes, which are said to be used by witches and such in their far-seeing spells. The brain, too, was treasured by witches, for they used it to know what evil men were thinking, or so it was said. The meat of the shark was certainly precious, for it would give strength to those who ate it. Precious also was the cartilage, for it was said to ward off the malignant disease that eats one from within. And the teeth would bring in a measure of gold, for warriors sought them as amulets—they bestowed ferocity in battle. Aye, if he could but land this shâyú, it would serve him well.

    Wangu readied his boathook, the heavy iron barb on the spear-like spar, the nearest thing he had to a fighting weapon aboard.

    And then he began bailing again as the boat was haled backward through the sea.

    Shrieking and shrieking, Teiji thrashed about on the ground, unable to sit or stand or walk. Midwives futilely tried to soothe her, and though Tal knew that too much of the juice of the yellow poppy was deadly dangerous in itself, still she tried to get Teiji to take some more, though it did not seem to help at all.

    And Chakun bathed Teiji's forehead with cool water, the eleven-year-old now unable to cover her own ears to help shut out the shrieks. If this was what it meant to bear a child, Chakun vowed she would never get married but would join the priestesses of Moko instead, and await the prophesied Mage Warrior King to come.

    Whump! Its slashing teeth bared in a gnashing jaw as it gnawed on the iron hook and chain, the shark slammed into the side of the leaking boat again, the great fish rolling so that its dead-black eye stared coldly up at screaming Wangu.

    Dread coursing through the fisherman's veins, with all his might—"Eyahh!"—Wangu stabbed the iron prong of the boathook into the monster once more, the barb spearing again through the tough hide of the creature and deep into the flesh below.

    Once more the shark wrenched about, Wangu nearly losing his pole as the monster wrested away through the shallows. Wangu and his boat were trapped up against a sheer rock wall on the west side of the stony crag of Shàbíng, where the shâyú had dragged the man in his craft, as if to pin him against stone and then wreak a crushing, slashing revenge. Again and again the shark had attacked, and again and again a wailing Wangu had stabbed the hook into the beast. And now the shâyú turned away once more to ready another charge.

    As the shark surged away, Wangu managed to jerk the boathook out of the pierced hide at the last moment, and he clutched the pole tightly, for it and the battered boat were all that stood between him and death.

    "I am named Stubborn," shouted Wangu above his own weeping moans of rage and fear. "I am named Stubborn ... Stubborn of the family Sûn."

    Out in the brine a heave in the water turned and sped back toward the boat: the shâyú was coming again.

    Wailing in terror, with a two-handed grip Wangu readied the boathook once more.

* * *

    As the sun lipped the horizon, Teiji gave one last scream, her voice so hoarse it was but a whisper ... and her jaw clenched tightly, and she snapped the biting stick in two. And then Teiji fell limp, the life going out of her. Chakun's heart raced as Old Tal bent over and put her ear to Teiji's breast and listened. The elderly woman rose to her knees and barked out, "Bring the bronze delivery knife. Teiji is dead. Mayhap we can save the child."

    Chakun turned her face away as Tal took the knife in hand and slashed a long cut through dead Teiji's belly, blood seeping out.

    Standing in the shallows and laughing hysterically and using the boathook as a lever, Wangu managed to roll the dead shark into even shallower water. The monster was seventeen feet long and must have weighed a ton and a half or more. Still, the water gave it a bit of buoyancy, and so it was the bulk Wangu struggled against and not the creature's heft. Even so, the sun was sinking, and Wangu needed to harvest what he could ere night fell and other sharks came following the blood trail. With the shâyú now rolled three-quarters over and braced against the rocks, Wangu unsheathed his gutting knife and, grunting and cursing, managed to hack a long, deep cut through the great shark's underside. He then plunged elbow-deep into the gashed-open gut of the shâyú to gather in the precious organs, but his hands encountered—What is this?—something unexpected. Hard and smooth and spherical it seemed ... or mayhap an ovoid. Slowly he lifted it out—Waugh! It was a crystal, or perhaps a jewel. No! It was jade! Or was it?

    They drew the child forth from its dead mother's cloven belly, and squalling cries filled the tent. Chakun was given the task of cleaning the babe, a boy, while Old Tal searched in her bag for gut to tie the cord ere cutting it.

    As Chakun cleansed the child of matter, she saw a dark mark twining 'round his neck and up the back of his head and over.

    Cord in hand, Tal turned back from her bag to see the mark as well. "Bring the iron knife of deliverance," said the old woman, her voice cold, her features glacial. "This child is cursed."

    "But it's just a baby," protested Chakun.

    "Nevertheless," hissed Tal, holding out her hand for the knife, "born in pain and death and blood it killed its mother; it has a mark; it must be slain, its throat cut ere the curse can spread to the tribe."

    Tears in her eyes, Chakun turned the squalling child onto its back ... and gasped out in wonder, for there on its forehead the mark ended.

    "Yong!" cried Chakun. "It is the mark of a Yong!"

    Standing out starkly on the forehead of the child was the face of a Yong—a Dragon—its sinuous body snaking back over the head of the babe, its tail wrapping 'round the tot's neck.

    All the midwives moaned and fell down in worship, for the Masula Yongsa Wang—the Mage Warrior King—had come at last.

    Wangu's eyes widened in amazement, for he held an oblate spheroid of translucent, jadelike stone, flawless and pale green and lustrous—some six inches through from end to end, and four inches through across—and it seemed to glow faintly with an inner light. He held the orb up in the dying rays of the setting sun, the crimson luminance casting back scarlet gleams like glints of candescent blood.

    Out into the camp the child was carried—Chakun afforded the honor, for wasn't she the first to see the sign on the child's face? She marched to the main fire, all the midwives in a respectful train after, Tal at their head. When Chakun reached the circle of men, she stepped boldly through and she called so that all could hear—"He shall be known as Kutsen Yong"—and she held up the child for all to see, the mark on his forehead standing out starkly, reflecting his name—Mighty Dragon. Moaning in obeisance, all the men fell down in worship, for the long-awaited Mage Warrior King had chosen this tribe to first set foot among.

    Old Tal stepped forward and said, "Teiji is dead, and the child will need milk."

    "The milk of a mare?" asked Cholui Chang, the chieftain, still on his knees.

    The old woman looked down at him in outrage. "This is the long-prophesied Masula Yongsa Wang, the one before whom even the Dragons themselves will bow. Nothing less than the full of a woman's breasts will do."

    An icy chill fell over the camp at these words. Cholui Chang rose up and looked about, and he strode to the gathering women of the tribe. And he snatched a wee babe from its mother's arms, and, as she screamed in horror, he slew it with a stroke of his knife.

    Aiee! This fish was even more precious than I thought. Nevertheless, there is a harvest to do before the night hunters arrive.

    Into his boat Wangu set the jade stone and then returned to the shark. Swiftly he reaped the heart and the liver, and then he took the eyes. As to the brain, he would harvest it on the morrow, if any of it was left, for Dame Fortune—Lady Yùnchi—had guided his boathook, and the iron point had crashed through the head and stabbed through that organ on the shâyú's final run, killing the great savage beast.

    Wangu turned to the shark fins, managing to hack off the pectorals ere darkness fell. And in the dimness he clambered into his battered boat, the floorboards awash with brine, and ere falling into exhausted sleep, he bailed most of it out.

    Sometime during the night, Wangu was awakened by a loud thrashing as scavengers came and took their toll. But by sunup they were gone.

    The next morning it was decided: while weeping Kkot—her week-old son, now dead—would wet-nurse the child, Chakun would be the principal handmaiden and see to Kutsen Yong's every need. After all she was the first among them to recognize the Masula Yongsa Wang, and she was all of eleven, certainly old enough for the task.

    And the Mage Warrior King must be served.

    There was a great deal of meat left on the shark, but what had remained of its organs was gone, for the scavengers had torn large chunks from the sliced-open belly on inward. Even so, competing with crabs, Wangu salvaged much of the precious flesh; it would bring a good price in the nearby great port of Janjong.

    Finally, Wangu turned to the mouth and, working carefully, pried teeth loose, for he knew the serrated triangular bones would bring gold from the imperial guard. As he reached in to take another, of a sudden the great jaws snapped shut, and screaming in horror, Wangu drew back but a stump where his left hand once had been.

    Even in death, the shâyú extracted its revenge for the fisherman's dark deeds done.

    Far to the south in the land of Jûng, a yellow-eyed being set out northward for Moko, for not only did the signs say the time had come, his subsequent raising of the dead girl had also revealed his relentless foe was near.

    And even as the yellow-eyed one fared away, to the west a black-haired Elf came across the border and into the land of Jûng. He bore with him a crystal-bladed black-hafted spear, and about his neck he wore a small blue stone on a thong. Into the land of Jûng he rode, to finally come to the great central city where the warlord of warlords ruled. There the Elf inquired after a yellow-eyed man, and although a few of those he asked knew of this reclusive, sinister being, none who had seen him knew where he had gone, though they did know it was recent. One by one, the Elf followed each of the roads out from the city, riding for league upon league, inquiring at steads and inns along the way, asking after the yellow-eyed man, but it was as if he had vanished into thin air, for none had seen him pass by. Disappointed once again, the Elf finally turned his horse back to the west, and left behind the land of Jûng.

    Under the remnants of a once-great volcano, where the land for leagues upon leagues juddered and jolted and trembled, in the rock far below lay a vast, fiery chamber, magma bubbling and surging and occasionally breaking free to erupt anew. Here it was millennia past Black Kalgalath had laired, the great Fire-drake sending his aethyric self into the molten inferno below. Still that was in a time now gone, the mountain itself long destroyed, and only ruin and devastation remained.

    Deep in the stone and faring from points afar, a number of huge beings made their way toward this fiery Hèl, their broad hands splitting open the granite before them and sealing it after as they moved through solid rock. They were coming to draw the molten stone back into the earth, down and away from the surface, to quell this land of its incessant juddering, for the time was drawing nigh, and this was Dragonslair.

    And in Dwarven-carved chambers hidden within a black mountain in far Xian, sleepers began to waken and stir and murmur of the verging Trine.

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Silver Wolf, Black Falcon 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though over all I find this book well written,and a good ending to the saga. I have to add that there was a little sadness in me on how the author seemed to rush the novel. Many things were left to the readers imagination,and there was very little participation from the warrows,who up till now had been the main characters in most of the series. Yes,he does leave you wondering if he will write a side story about the recalling of the armor, but even though there were problems still a very enjoyable read, and a solid book for those of us waiting for the ending of an era.
harstan More than 1 year ago
He is known as The Impossible Child, the child of all the races. The young Bair is the first child born of an elven woman in Mithgar in thousands of years. He has been prophesied as the 'rider of the plains who will bear the silver sword to Mithgar when evil come to the world.' Bair is certainly destined for greatness. From the moment of his birth, he is set upon a path which will eventually coincide with a great evil, bent on destroying the one who defends free will in Mithgar. Bair's journey from birth to his destiny is chronicled in Silver Wolf Black Falcon, and along the way, Bair meets elves, shapeshifters, necromancers and humans, and must learn about good and evil, and who is friend and who is foe.

Dennis McKiernan's Mithgar novels are well-known, from Into the Forge, his first Hel's Crucilble book, through the Dragonstone, through the Dark Tower novels. He has described Silver Wolf Black Falcon as the sequel to all his other works. It is impossible to completely appreciate Silver Wolf Black Falcon without having read his other works, because there are so many references to previous events, places, even, as one reviewer put it, 'cameo' appearances by characters from other books. Still, the book is a brilliantly conceived epic fantasy, just like the others. McKiernan states that this is the last of the Mithgar novels, which seems a shame. But all things must come to an end. Certainly, the Mithgar books are well-loved, and will remain in many personal libraries as classics of the genre.

Rickey R. Mallory

Guest More than 1 year ago
SWBF takes off fast; jumps backwards; then explodes into a wickedly paced story, which is hard to keep up with at times. It makes for a rushed reading, as you just can not read fast enough to satisfy your desire and curiosity for what comes next. SWBF is a truly wondrous piece of writing. The only downside (if one at all) is that you need to be up to date with all of your Mithgarian Lore -definitely not for a Mithgarian virgin. All prior Mithgar books are prerequisite to this reading. I myself find that I am now bound to reread a few tomes myself before a second read through of SWBF. Dennis, true to his word, has created a sequel to all of his previous Mithgarian works. Answers to most of the previously unanswered redes, foreshadowing, and to the stories left untold are contained within this volume ¿in addition to some answers and stories that you did not know needed answering. Many of the stories and answers are as you may have guessed, others will pleasantly surprise you and still a few others will shock you in their originality. While most of the questions and stories are tied up and answered in this book¿ there are still a few 'red slippers' left untold. New characters to become attached too, both good and evil, and old favorites to become reacquainted with one 'last' time (I sure hope not though.) Prepare to meet some extremely well thought out new characters and character development, which answers past questions in intriguing and inventive ways. Also, there is a trip back to many favorite settings (some seen in a new way), while visiting just as many new ones. The beginning creates intrigue about certain issues, which you can not rush ahead fast enough to discover the meaning of. The pace only increases the further you get into the book until coalescing into a fever-pitched grand finale. An absolutely great ending (? - I hope not!) to a fantastic series, superbly written one of the greatest sequels ever scribed.