The Summoner (Chronicles of the Necromancer Series #1)by Gail Z. Martin
The comfortable world of Martris Drayke, second son of King Bricen of Margolan, is shattered when his older half-brother, Jared, and Jared's dark mage, Foor Arontala, kill the king and seize the throne. Tris is the only surviving member of the royal family aside from Jared the traitor. Tris flees with three friends: Soterius, captain of the guard; Carroway, the… See more details below
The comfortable world of Martris Drayke, second son of King Bricen of Margolan, is shattered when his older half-brother, Jared, and Jared's dark mage, Foor Arontala, kill the king and seize the throne. Tris is the only surviving member of the royal family aside from Jared the traitor. Tris flees with three friends: Soterius, captain of the guard; Carroway, the court's master bard; and Harrtuck, a member of the royal guard. Tris harbors a deep secret. In a land where spirits walk openly and influence the affairs of the living, he suspects he may be the mage heir to the power of his grandmother, Bava K'aa, once the greatest sorceress of her age. Such magic would make Tris a Summoner, the rarest of magic gifts, capable of arbitrating between the living and the dead.
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"Walk carefully, my prince," the ghost warned. "You are in great danger this night."
Outside the mullioned windows, Martris Drayke could hear the revelry of the feast day crowds. Torchlight glittered beyond the glass, and costumed figures danced, singing and catcalling, past the castle tower. Dressed in the four aspects of the One Goddess, Margolan's sacred Lady, the partygoers lurched behind an effigy of the Crone Mother, far more intent, this Feast of the Departed, on appeasing their appetite for ale than memorializing the dead.
"From whom?" Tris returned his attention to his spectral visitor. The ghosts of the palace Shekerishet were so numerous that he could not recall having ever seen this particular spirit before, a thin-faced man with heavy-lidded eyes, whose antiquated costume marked him as a member of the court one hundred years past.
The specter flickered and tried to say more, but no sound came. Tris leaned closer. Now of any time the ghost should be the easiest to see, for on Haunts as the feast day was commonly known, spirits walk openly abroad and even skeptics cannot refuse to see. The palace ghosts had been Tris's friends since childhood, long before he came to understand that his insubstantial companions were not so easily seen by those around him. "Spirits ... banished," the fading ghost managed. "Beware ... the Soulcatcher." Tris had to strain for the last words as the revenant faded into nothing. Puzzled, he sat back on his heels, his sword clattering against the hard stone floor. The rap at the door nearly made him lose his footing.
"What are you doing in there, or aren't you alone?" teased Ban Soterius through the door. Thelatch lifted and the sturdy captain of the guards strode in. Nothing in the young man's manner corroborated the strong smell of ale on his breath, save for his mussed brown hair and the slight rumpling of his fine tunic.
"I'm alone now," Tris said, with a glance back to where the ghost had been. Soterius looked from Tris to the empty wall. "I keep telling you, Tris," the guardsman said, "you've got to get out more. Me, I don't care if I ever talk to a ghost ... unless she's a good looking lass with a pint of ale!"
Tris managed a smile. "Have you seen the spirits tonight?" Soterius thought for a moment. "Not as much as usual, now that you mention it, especially for Haunts." He brightened. "But you know how they love a good story. They're probably down listening to Carroway tell his tales." He pulled at Tris's sleeve. "Come on. There's no law that says princes can't have fun, too, and while I'm standing up here with you, I could be missing the love of my life down in the greatroom!"
Soterius's good humor made Tris chuckle. The captain of the guards was a favorite with the court's noble daughters. Soterius's light brown hair was cut short, for a battle helm. He was of medium build, fit and tanned from training with the guards. Everything about his bearing and his manner bespoke his military background, but the mischievous twinkle in his dark eyes softened his features, and seemed to make the marriageable maidens flock to him.
Tris was just as happy to have those same young girls and their ambitious mothers distracted. He stood a head taller than Soterius, with a lean, rangy build. He had been told often that his angular features and high cheekbones took after the best of both his parents, but the white-blond hair that framed his face and fell to his shoulders was clearly from Queen Serae's side, as were the green eyes that matched those of his grandmother, the famed sorceress Bava K'aa. It was a combination the ladies of the court found quite attractive.
"I promise I'll be down right behind you," Tris said, and Soterius raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Honest. I just want to light a candle and put a gift in grandmother's room before I go. Then you can take me on that tour of alehouses you've been promising."
Soterius grinned. "I'll hold you to that, Prince Drayke," he laughed. "Get moving. The way the festival's going tonight, they'll run out of ale and you know that brandy doesn't agree with me."
Tris heard his friend's boot steps fade down the corridor as he made his way to the family rooms. The silent stares from a row of paintings and tapestries seemed to follow him, the long-dead kings of Margolan, King Bricen's forebears. Bricen's lineage was one of the longest unbroken monarchies in the Seven Kingdoms. Glancing at their solemn visages and knowing the stories of what they had endured to secure their thrones, Tris was glad the crown would not pass to him. He picked up a torch from the sconce on the wall and opened the door into his grandmother's room. The smell of incense and potions still clung to the sorceress's chamber, five years after her death. Tris shut the door behind him. It was an indication of the awe with which even her own family regarded her that, even now, no one disturbed the spirit mage's possessions, Tris thought. But the sorceress Bava K'aa earned that kind of awe, and though he remembered her most clearly as an indulgent grandmother, the legends of her power were enough to make him hesitate, just an instant, before stepping further into the room.
"Grandmother?" Tris whispered. He set a candle on the table in the center of the room and lit it with a straw from the torch. Then, he set out a token gift of honey cakes and a small cup of ale, over which he made the sign of the Goddess in blessing. And then, with a glance to assure himself that the door was shut and he would not be discovered, he stepped onto the braided rug in the center of the room. Plaited from her sorceress's cords, the rug matched the warded circle of his grandmother's workspace, and Tris felt the familiar tingle of her magic, like the residue of old perfume. With his sword as his athame, Tris walked the perimeter of the rug as his grandmother taught him, feeling the circle of protection rise around him. Its blue-white light was clear in his mind, though invisible. Tris closed his eyes and stretched out his right hand.
"Grandmother, I call you," he murmured, stretching out his senses for her familiar presence. "I invite you to the feast. Join me within the Circle." Tris paused. But for the first time since her death, no response came. He tried once more.
"Bava K'aa, your kinsman invites you to the feast. I have brought you a gift. Walk with me." Nothing in the room stirred and Tris opened his eyes, concerned.
And then, a glimmer of light caught his eye. It seemed far beyond the circle, struggling and flickering as if trapped within gauze, but as he strained to make it out, he recognized the form of his grandmother, standing at a great distance obscured by fog.
"Grandmother!" he called, but the apparition came no further. Her lips moved, but no sound reached him, yet a chill ran down his back. He did not need words to recognize a warning in his grandmother's manner. Though Tris could not hear Bava K'aa's voice, the indication of danger was clear enough.
Without warning, a cold wind howled through the shuttered chamber, guttering the torch and extinguishing the candle. It buffeted the circle Tris cast, and the image of his grandmother winked out. Two porcelain figures crashed to the floor and the bed curtains fluttered as the gust tore scrolls from the desk and knocked a chair to the ground. Tris gritted his teeth and strained to keep his warding in place, but he felt the gooseflesh rise on his arms as the chill permeated even the area within the cord and circle. Like a glimpse of something there and gone, impressions formed in his mind. Something evil, something old and strong, lost, hunting, dangerous.
And then, as quickly as it came, the wind was gone and with it Tris's sense of foreboding. When he felt sure that nothing stirred in the room, Tris raised his shaking hand to silently thank the Four Faces of the Goddess, and then closed the circle, shivering as the magic light faded in his mind. He looked around the room. Only the torn parchments, shattered figurines and overturned chair testified that anything was amiss. More troubled than before, Tris turned to leave.
From the corridor, a woman screamed. Tris bounded for the door, his sword already in hand. In the shadows of the hallway, Tris could make out a grappling pair, the dark figure of a man looming over one of the chambermaids who struggled to escape.
"Release her!" Tris raised his sword in challenge. Seizing the moment, the terrified woman sank her teeth into her attacker's arm and wrenched free, running down the corridor for her life. Tris felt his throat tighten as the assailant straightened and turned, recognizing the form even before the thin gold circlet on the man's brow glinted in the torchlight.
"Once again, you've spoiled my fun, brother," Jared Drayke glowered, his eyes narrowing. King Bricen's eldest son started down the hallway, and Tris could tell by his brother's gait that Jared was well into his cups this feast night. Tris stood his ground, though he felt his heart in his throat. Ale never compromised Jared's swing nor blunted his swordsmanship, and Tris had taken enough bruises at his brother's hand to know just what kind of a mood Jared was in tonight.
"You're drunk," Tris grated.
"Sober enough to whip your ass," Jared retorted, already beginning to turn up the sleeves of his tunic.
"You can try."
"You dare to raise steel against me?" Jared roared. "I could have you hanged. No one threatens the future king of Margolan!"
"While father rules, I doubt I'll hang," Tris replied, feeling his heart thud. "Why don't you bed one of the nobles' daughters, instead of raping the servants? Or would it be too expensive to pay off their families when they disappeared?"
"I'll teach you respect," Jared growled, close enough for Tris to smell the rancid brew on Jared's breath. And with a movement almost too quick to see, Jared drew his sword and charged forward.
Tris parried, needing both hands to deflect the thrust he had no doubt was meant to score. He fell back a step as Jared drove on, barely countering his brother's enraged attack. Jared pressed forward, and the anger that burned in his eyes was past reasoning. Tris fought for his life, knowing that he could not hold off Jared's press much longer as Jared forced him back into the glow of the torch sconce.
In the distance, boot steps sounded on the stone. "Prince Jared?" Zachar, the seneschal called. "My prince, are you there? Your father desires your attendance."
With an oath, Jared freed his sword from Tris's parry and stepped back several paces. "Prince Jared?" Zachar called again, closer now and more insistent.
"I heard you," Jared shouted in return, watching Tris carefully. Warily, Tris lowered his sword but did not sheath it until Jared first replaced his own weapon.
"Don't think it's settled, brother," Jared snarled. "You'll pay. Before the dawn, you'll pay!" Jared promised. Zachar's footsteps were much closer now and Jared turned to meet the seneschal before Zachar could happen upon them.
Tris stood where he was for a moment until his heart slowed and he caught his breath, shaking from the confrontation. When he regained his composure, he headed for the greatroom, slowing only when the sounds and smells of the festival reached him as he neared the doors to the banquet hall.
Soterius looked skeptically at him as Tris joined his friend. "What's your hurry?"
The armsman was far too observant to overlook the sweat that glistened on Tris's forehead on a chill autumn night, or the obvious flush of the fight. "Just a little conversation with Jared," Tris replied, knowing from long acquaintance that Soterius would fill in the rest.
"Can't your father--?" Soterius asked below his breath.
Tris shook his head. "Father can't ... or won't ... admit what a monster he sired. Even good kings have their blind spots."
"Good feast to you, brother." A girl's laughing voice sounded behind them just then, and Tris turned. Behind him stood his sister, Kait, her prized falcon perched on her gauntlet. A dozen summers old, at an age when most princesses gloried in mincing steps and elaborate gowns, Kait was radiant in the costume of a falconer, its loose tunic and knickers hiding her budding curves. Her hair was dark, like Bricen's, plaited in a practical braid, which only accentuated how much she resembled both Tris and Jared. Dark-eyed like her father, with her mother's grace, Kait was likely to catch the eye of potential suitors before too long, Tris thought with a protective pang.
"Didn't anyone tell you you're supposed to get a costume for Haunts?" Tris teased, and even the events in the corridor could not keep a smile from his face as Kait favored him with a sour look.
"You know very well, brother dear, that this is the one night of the year I can wear sensible clothes without completely scandalizing mother and the good ladies of the court," she retorted. The falcon, one of the dozen that she tended like children, stepped nervously in its traces, restless at the noise of the boisterous crowd.
"Are you going to take that bird with you on your wedding day?" Tris bantered.
Kait wrinkled her nose as if she smelled spoiled meat. "Don't rush me. Maybe I'll take him with me on my wedding night, and not have to start birthing brats immediately!"
"Kaity, Kaity, what would mother say?" Tris clucked in mock astonishment, as Soterius laughed and Kait swung a lighthearted punch at Tris's shoulder.
"She'd say what she usually says," Kait returned unfazed. "That she had better find me a suitor before I've scandalized the entire court." She shrugged. "The race is on."
"You know," Soterius said with a wink, "she might find you someone you actually like."
Kait raised an eyebrow. "Like you?" she replied with such a withering tone that both Tris and Soterius chuckled once more.
Soterius raised his hand in appeasement. "You know that's not what I mean."
Kait looked about to make another rejoinder when she glanced at Tris, who had fallen silent. "You're quiet, Tris."
Tris and Soterius exchanged glances. "Had a bit of a run-in with Jared," Tris said. "Stay out of his way tonight, Kaity. He's in an awful temper."
Kait's banter dropped, and Tris saw complete understanding in eyes that suddenly appeared much older than her dozen years. "I'd heard," she said with a grimace. "There's talk at the stables. He thrashed a stable hand down there half to death for not having his horse ready." She rolled her eyes. "At least I've managed to stay away from him for a few days."
Tris looked at her and frowned. "Where'd you get that bruise on your arm?"
Kait felt for it self-consciously. "It's not bad," she said, looking away.
"That isn't what I asked, Kaity," Tris pressed. He could feel his anger burning already, for this welt and all the others over the years.
Kait still did not meet his eyes. "I earned it," she sighed. "Jared was taking it out on one of the kitchen dogs, and I clipped a loaf of bread at his head to let the pup get away." She winced. "He wasn't very happy with me."
"Damn him!" Tris swore. "Don't worry, Kaity. I'll make sure he stays away from you," he promised, though they both knew past attempts had only limited success.
Kait managed a wan smile. "After the party, think you could do up one of your poultices? It does smart a little."
Tris ruffled her hair, feeling such a mixture of anger for Jared and love for Kait that he thought his heart might break. "Sure thing, Kaity. I don't even have to sneak the herbs out of the kitchen any more."
Long ago when they were children, Tris dared night runs to the kitchens to get the herbs he needed to bind up the bruises and cuts Jared inflicted. Though he was only eight years Kait's senior, he was her self-appointed guardian since the day she was born. Maybe he had been stirred by how small and lonely she had looked in the nursemaid's arms. Or perhaps it was Tris's fear that a baby would prove a more amusing target for Jared's cruel humor than the ill-fated cats and dogs that disappeared from the nursery with distressing regularity.
They stuck together, and he frequently took the brunt of Jared's tempers for her. Jared drove off one nursemaid after another with his outbursts. As Kait got older, she and Tris found safety in banding together against Jared, able to make him back off when they no longer made such an easy mark.
"Father's got to listen soon," Kait said wistfully, breaking into his thoughts.
Tris shook his head. "Not yet he won't," he said. "He won't hear a word I say, even though he and Jared argue more and more. Some days, I think they argue about saying 'good morning.'"
Kait sighed, and the bird on her gauntlet fidgeted. "Maybe mother--?"
Again, Tris indicated the negative. "Every time she tries to say something, father accuses her of favoring her children over Jared. I don't think he's ever quite gotten over Eldra's death," he added. Jared's mother died giving birth to Bricen's first-born, and it took the king nearly ten years to find the will to wed again, a decade in which young prince Jared had little supervision and less correction as his father retreated into despair.
"Mother won't even bring it up anymore," Tris added. "She just tries to keep you out of his way."
"Uh oh," Kait whispered under her breath. "More trouble." Tris followed her gaze across the crowded greatroom, to the red-robed figure that stood in the hall's entrance. A hush fell over the room. Clad in the flowing blood-colored robes of a Fireclan mage, Foor Arontala, Jared's chief advisor, made his way through the crowd. The throng parted in front of him in a desperate haste to get out of his way, yet the fine-boned, porcelain-pale face that peered from beneath a heavy hood and long dark hair did not even acknowledge their presence.
"I hate him," Kait whispered in a voice that only Tris and Soterius could hear. "I wish grandmother were here. She'd squash him like a flea," she added, with a little stamping motion for good measure.
"Grandmother's gone," Tris replied tonelessly, thinking of his unsuccessful attempt to contact Bava K'aa's spirit earlier in the evening. He moved to tell Kait what happened, and then, out of long habit, stopped. Bava K'aa always kept his training such an elaborate secret that even now, he was unwilling to put it into words.
"I wish your father had been quicker to bring a new mage of his own to Shekerishet," Soterius added in a whisper. "Even a grannywitch would be better than that," he said with carefully shielded distaste.
Foor Arontala passed among the hushed partygoers as if he did not notice their existence, gliding with preternatural smoothness through the crowd to exit on the other side of the hall, but it took several minutes before the revelry began again, and even longer before it began to sound wholehearted.
"Crone take him," Tris swore under his breath.
"He looks like She already has," Kait giggled.
Soterius took it upon himself to lighten the mood. "Do I have to remind both of you that there's a party going on?" he reprimanded with mock sternness. "Carroway's been telling tales for most of a candlemark over there," he said, gesturing, "and you've missed it."
"Is he still there?" Kait said with sudden interest. "Is there room?"
"Let's go find out," Tris said, hoping that the diversion would break his heavy mood.
Carroway, Margolan's master bard, sat in the center of a rapt audience. It was evident by the press of partygoers around him that the storyteller was building to the climax of his tale.
Carroway leaned forward, recounting the adventure from the time of Tris's great, great grandfather's rule in a hushed voice that forced his listeners to lean closer. "The Eastmark raiders pressed on, cutting their way toward the palace. Valiant men tried and failed to push them back, but still the raiders came. The palace gates were in sight! Blood ran ankle deep on the stones and all around, the moans of the dying cried for justice." As Carroway spoke, he leaned to the side and casually lit two gray candles.
"King Hotten fought with all his might as all around him, swords clashed and the battle raged. Twice, assassins closed around him. Twice, hurled daggers nearly found their mark." With lazy grace, Carroway's arm snapped up and thunk, thunk, two daggers appeared from nowhere, thudding into the woodwork behind the rearmost listener. The children screamed, then giggled at Carroway's sleight of hand.
"But the weary defenders had no more troops to spare," Carroway went on. "Now it was the eve of the Feast of the Departed--Haunts as we call it--when spirits walk most boldly among us. They say that on Haunts, the spirits can make themselves solid if they choose, and cast illusions so real that mortals cannot sense or feel the deception until--" he paused, and a well-timed small 'poof' and a puff of smoke appeared by sleight of hand, "--everything so solid the night before vanishes with the morning. Knowing this, King Hotten begged his mage to do anything that would stop the invaders. The mage was nearly spent himself, and he knew that summoning a major spell would probably be his death, but he harnessed all the power he possessed and called out to the spirit of the land itself, to the Avenger Goddess, and to the souls of the dead. And with his dying breath, the fog began to change.
"From the blood-soaked stones, a mist began to rise. At first, it hovered above the street, swirling around the raiders' legs, but it grew higher and denser, until it reached the horses' bridles. Soon, it was a howling wind, and as the terrified raiders watched it took on faces and shapes, distorted by the tempest. And on that feast night so long ago, the spirits chose to take on form, to manifest themselves completely, to seem as real and solid as you or me." A thin fog was rising from Carroway's candles, swirling along the floor of the castle, sending its tendrils among the listeners who startled as they noticed it and stared at Carroway, eyes wide. As they watched, the thin veil of smoke formed itself into the figures of the story, phantom wisps in the shapes of rearing horses and fleeting ghosts.
"The spirits of Shekerishet rose to defend it from the raiders, by the power of the dead and the will of every valiant fighter who ever died to defend king and kingdom. A howl rose above the wind, the shrieks and warning wails of the rising ghosts; and the fog was so thick that it separated the attackers from each other." Carroway's wrist flicked and two small pellets scattered from his hand, screeching and wailing as they hit the hard floor. His audience jumped out of their seats, wide-eyed with fright.
"Confounded and terrified, the attackers ran," Carroway went on. In his gray bard's robes, dimly lit by the flickering torches, he looked like something out of legend. "The wall of spirits drove them back, onto the waiting blades of the Margolan army. The ghostly guardians of the palace pushed back the enemy, pursuing the raiders until they scattered beyond the gates," he said, stretching out his hand. His audience shrieked in good-natured fright as the smoke rose at Carroway's command, shaping itself into a man-sized apparition of a skeletal fighter, poised to draw his sword from the scabbard that hung against his bony leg.
"They say that the ghosts still protect Shekerishet," Carroway said with a grin. "They say that the spirits of the castle defend it from intruders and will let no harm come to those within. They say that the curse of King Hotten's mage still carries power, and that every king's mage since then has added to it with his dying breath," Carroway continued. "And that," Carroway said, sitting back with satisfaction, "is the story of the Battle of Court Gate."
Tris chuckled as the wide-eyed children filed away, leaving their costumed storyteller to gather his belongings. Kait danced up to Carroway and blew him a teasing kiss. "I loved it!" She piped up enthusiastically. "But you've got to make it scarier." She winked at the bard. "If I hadn't already sworn never to get married, I'd pick you," she added. Tris suspected that Kait was only partly jesting, though she had known Tris's childhood friend for so long that Carroway was like a brother.
"You're going to give her nightmares," Tris joked, rescuing the blushing minstrel.
Carroway grinned. "I hope so. That's what Haunts is all about." He stood, shaking out the folds of his cloak. A group of costumed revelers passed them, arms entwined, singing loudly and badly off-key.
"Good Haunts to you, bard and all," one of them called out, tossing a golden coin to Carroway, which the storyteller caught in midair.
"Good Haunts to you, sir!" Carroway called in acknowledgment, holding up the coin and then, with a flourish, making it disappear to the delight of the partygoers. Carroway was as tall as Tris but thinner, moving with a dancer's grace. His long, blue-black hair framed features so handsome that they veered toward beauty. Light blue eyes, with long lashes, sparkled with intelligence and a keen wit.
Ban Soterius appeared at Carroway's side. "Don't let the priestesses hear you call it that," their friend warned in mock seriousness. "It's Feast of the Departed, young man." Soterius grinned and rubbed his knuckles. "I got reminded of that more than once when I was in school."
Carroway grinned. "Haunts is a lot easier to say," he replied archly. "Besides, what else are you supposed to call a holiday for dead people?"
"I suspect you're missing some deeper point on that," Tris laughed.
"I'll see you three later," Kait said, reaching up to calm her falcon as a noisy group of revelers passed by. "Good Feast to you," she called. "Don't get into too much trouble."
"Easy for you to say," Tris rejoined. He turned to Carroway as Kait blended into the departing crowd. "Come on, or we'll be late for the feast." The three young men were easily Margolan's most eligible bachelors, not yet twenty summers old, and were the targets of the court's ambitious mothers. While Soterius relished the attention, and was rarely without a lady on his arm, Carroway was more likely to choose his partners from among the castle's entertainers, singers or musicians whose talent he respected, and who were less star-struck over his court position and friendship with Tris.
To the chagrin of many of the court mothers, and even, sometimes Tris suspected, his mother Serae, Tris had successfully evaded the matchmakers. Jared's escapades made Tris wary, and he had yet to meet any of the local nobles' daughters with whom he could carry an interesting conversation more than once. His self-imposed solitude was in sharp contrast to Jared's wantonness, and Tris was well aware that some of the court wags invented their own, less flattering explanations for his unwillingness to choose and discard consorts with the same regularity as the rest of the court. Let them talk, he thought. He had no intention of bringing a bride into Shekerishet with Jared nearby, and even less desire to subject children of his own to Jared's cruelties.
Perhaps some day, he thought wistfully, watching as Soterius and Carroway bantered easily with the costumed girls who passed them. Some day, when I'm safely out of Shekerishet, in permanent residence at father's country manor, far from court, far from parties, far from Jared.
"Tell your fortunes?" a voice rasped from behind them. Tris turned, startled, to find a bent old woman in an alcove, gesturing with a gnarled finger. He knew at once that she was one of the palace's ghosts, although this night, the spirits walked openly, seemingly solid. "For you, Prince Drayke, and your friends, there is no charge."
"Where did she come from?" Soterius murmured.
Carroway shrugged. "Let's go see what our fortune holds."
"I'm not really sure I want to know," Soterius balked, but Carroway was already dragging Tris by the sleeve.
"Come on," Carroway teased. "I want to know how famous a bard I'm going to become."
"Speak for yourself," Soterius muttered under his breath. "Really, I'm not sure--"
"I'm with Ban," Tris murmured.
"No spirit of adventure. Come on," the bard insisted.
The crone looked up as they approached, and her jaw worked a wad of dreamweed. A bit of spit dribbled down her stubbly chin as she pushed back a lock of greasy hair and nodded, taking in everything with piercing green eyes that seemed to see through them. Her dress was made of faded silk, expensive once but now long past its glory; and she smelled of spice and musk.
The seer sat before a low, intricately carved table, its worn surface wrought with complicated runes. In the center of the table was a crystal globe, set atop a golden stand. Both the globe and its stand were of much greater quality than Tris anticipated, and he looked more closely at the crone.
She raised a bony finger and leveled it at the bard's chest. "You, first, minstrel," she rasped, and motioned for Carroway to kneel. She looked up at Tris and Soterius, and her eyes narrowed. "Wait in silence."
She hummed a raspy chant, ancient and strange, intoned just below Tris's ability to catch the words. Her gnarled hands caressed the crystal, brushing its surface, shaping themselves around it gently, hovering just above its smooth contours.
The globe began to glow, a cold, swirling blue that began at its nexus and gradually filled the whole crystal with a brilliant flare of blue. The crone closed her eyes, humming and swaying.
When she spoke, it was in the clear tones of a young girl, without a trace of the smoky rasp they heard before. "You are the maker of tales and the taker of lives," said the girl's voice, bell-like and preternatural. "Your tales will be the greatest Margolan has ever known, but sorrow, yes, great sorrow will teach you your songs. Take heed, dreamspinner," the voice warned. "Your journey lies among the immortals. Guard well your soul."
Tris realized he was holding his breath. Soterius stared, unmoving. Carroway, eyes wide, watched the swaying seer with amazement. The seer's face relaxed, as if a curtain had fallen, and the voice went silent.
"Let's get out of here," Soterius said.
"Stay," the crone commanded, and while she did not raise her rasping voice, the grated command froze Soterius in place. "You will come, soldier," she said as Carroway, still dazed, scrambled to his feet. Ashen, Soterius obeyed.
From the voluminous pockets of her frayed robe, the hag withdrew a well-worn pack of cards. Jalbet cards. Tris recognized the stock-in-trade of roadside oracles and the parlor amusement of ladies at court. Deftly, the crone laid down four cards.
"The Ox," the crone grated, naming the cards. "The Black River. The Coin. The Dark Lady." The crone gave a harsh laugh. "These speak for the Goddess," she rasped. "Look with care."
"I don't understand--"
"Silence!" Her twisted finger stroked the first worn card. "The Ox is the card of strength. Your health and strength will serve you well, soldier. Together with the Black River, the cards speak of war," she spoke as if to herself, her dry voice taking on a singsong quality. "You will prosper. That is the tale of the coin. But," she hissed, as one broken nail quivered above the last card, "beware. For your journey shall be taken along dark roads, in the company of the dead and the undead. You will be among the servants of the Dark Lady. Guard well your soul."
Soterius swallowed hard, staring at the cards. He gave a nervous glance at the globe, which remained clear and unremarkable. The crone looked up at Tris, and wordlessly beckoned. His heart thudding, Tris obeyed, settling nervously into his seat as Soterius hurried out of the way.
"Give me your hand," the crone commanded, reaching across the table. Slowly, Tris extended his hand, turning it palm up as the witch drew it towards her.
"A great quest will come to you, Son of the Lady," the crone whispered, tracing a barely visible line on Tris's palm with her nail. "Who can see its end?" she mumbled, her nail tracing the folds of Tris's palm. "Many souls hang in the balance. Your way lies in shadow." She caught her breath, her finger trembling.
"What is it?" Tris breathed, afraid to speak above a whisper.
"You are indeed the Lady's own," the crone rasped. "Your hand betrays no time of dying."
Meet the Author
Gail Martin has worked with non-profit and for-profit organizations in many industries. She is an adjunct professor for UNC Charlotte and a part-time instructor for Central Piedmont Community College who teaches public speaking, continuing education (marketing topics) and public relations writing. She is an award winning writer with articles and stories published throughout the US.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book has a great start, but gets even better as you go. The characters are well developed and the story is captivating. The author breathes new life into traditional 'bad' actors. My normal genre choice is historical fiction, but this selection really captured my attention. Reminded me of well written historical fiction. The story is so well developed and told in such a page turning way that it takes on the authority of history. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in fantasy or looking for an enthralling tale.
I only got through half of the book before throwing it down. I liked the story idea and the writing style was good but over all its mediocre at best. The majority of it was predictable and there's only so many times you can get hurt in the shoulder. The characters would fluctuate between being different and interesting to all sounding the same. This story had a lot of potiental but I think it could of been pulled off better. It wasn't so horrible that I won't give this Author a second chance but as for this particular book...I'd like to see what else she comes up with.
To the lengthy bad review, I must write a protest. The first 5 pages this book had me smiling and looking forward to a thoroughly fun and entertaining read. Being a geek, it felt like I had been thrown into the midst of a Dungeons & Dragons adventure. No, the characters and plotline are not epic or laced with greater truths, but the story is well written. I never felt bogged down by unnecessary words or awkward interactions. I flew through the story with a smile on my face, enjoying every moment of this book. The characters were well described and individualized enough that I could see them clearly without lengthy descriptive passages. The plotline was engaging without being overwhelming. The world was comfortable and well-crafted. And overall the adventure was so much fun to read. Yes, there are dark moments and dangerous situations these are balanced by the way the author makes you feel as if you are part of the adventure. If you are heavy into books that make you work for every page, you may not like this one. But, if you are in the mood to have great fun for a few hours with a good old-fashioned fantasy novel, I highly recommend this one. I read it in a day, and if the bookstore wasn't already closed, I'd be reading the second one in the series already!
3 stars means I wouldn't recommend to a friend but I wouldn't discourage someone from reading it either. I felt like the story was told to me rather than living the story through the characters. A fast fun read but nothing notable. Clean book with no swearing that I noticed and no sex.
As the title implies, this is a fantasy novel taking place in a rather feudal time on another world. Personally I loved the novel. The characters were properly developed as necessary, however to fully grasp them you must read at least up to the next novel (The Blood King). There are a number of side characters, all of whom are vividly dynamic throughout both books, and so the book does switch perspectives. Also, the author adds a concept of religion in this series. The Lady (who has four faces and eight personas) is a rather unique and well researched creation by the author. The lavish history behind these novels is introduced properly, and slowly developed throughout (none of that "Oh well yeah it's history so I'm just going to tell you or give you a cheat sheet with all the info on it" crap. A page turner and as I see it a must read.
While I didn't find this book to be amazing, it was certainly readable. The story sounds great, right? A guy on the run with the power to summon the dead? Awesome! Right? Not so much. In reality, the characters are one dimensional stereotypes, with no background or past whatsoever. Additionaly, the author is extremely poor at showing character's feelings and emotions. Tris, the main character, loses his beloved sister right away in the book. He's so sad the author tells us. He can hardly go on with his life; the pain is too great. Why then, is he perfectly alright three days later? This book falls sadly short of its potential, due largely in part to its lack of character development, but also its childish predictibility and vocabulary. Stories are supposed to be exciting! Adventures are supposed to be full of uncertainty and suspense! This novel fails to deliver on both prerequisites. At no point did I find myself wondering about the character's future. My pulse never quickened with anticipation. In fact, it almost feels like another person is telling you a story; you never quite get the full experience.
Picked up the book on a whim a couple of years ago, and it does not dissapoint. The feel of this series is along the lines of the legend of drizzt series, though more magically involved.
I picked this up while waiting for the next Brent Weeks book to come out and I must say disappointed may not even be the appropriate word. I barely made it through half the book before I had to stop. There was little to no depth to any of the characters, the plot is beyond predictable, and if I wanted to have my vocabulary insulted I would've picked up Sesame Street. Maybe I'm biased because Mr. Weeks has such a detailed and deep style, but this just didn't live up to it's potential. Great concept, awful execution.
Terrible knockoff of better books in the genre. Broad, archetypical characters with bland dialogue and blundering attempts at romance. This book was really quite awful.
Some really original elements to it. The ghosts and the concwpt behind a summoner for one but there are other things that i like as well.
This is hands down one of the worst written fantasy books I have ever read. There are a sparse couple spots where characters feel alive and interesting, but the majority of the time they are the same or go off character on some issue (like the character Vahanian, an untrusting rogue, immediately trusting the newcomer vampire that he has never met and who has just delivered a very cryptic message). The plot is loosely thrown together. And instead of writing a genuine challenge for the characters, the author decides to throw easy fixes at them. For example, trying to find the lost Great Library that will hold all your answers to defeat the baddies, instead of a long troublesome search, they are handed a map. I feel more than a little ripped off at this purchase. Overall, it felt like someone threw together a story that they had role played. I only gave it one star cause they didn't have half of a star.
Heir to the throne of Margolan, Prince Jared chooses to no longer wait for his father King Bricen to die. He and his mage Foor Arontala assassinate the monarch and the rest of the royal family except one. Warned by a ghost to beware of treachery, Jared¿s half-brother Martris ¿Tris¿ Drayke flees his home. He is accompanied by Captain of the Guard Soterius, the Court Bard Carroway, and the royal guard assigned to the younger prince Harrtuck.
The quartet needs time and allies; as they know Jared and Arontala will hunt them down like rabid dogs. Time is not available as Jared goes after the only living threat to his iron clad rule and allies are not forthcoming at least amongst the living as few are willing to risk their lives in what looks like a lost cause. Feeling he is the SUMMONER heir to his late grandmother, the greatest sorceress ever known, Tris seeks supporters from the ghosts of the dead.
At the same Tris struggles to survive, Jared tightens his control over Margolan and turns to the neighboring Isencroft whose ruler is dying from a spell and whose crops failed from what also looks like dark magic. He demands Princess Kiara Sharsequin marry him or else. Buying time that is running out, Kiara travels to the Sisterhood praying they can save her father and her people; if they cannot she knows her duty is to her people.
This is an exciting opening fantasy thriller with an intriguing premise of a good guy raising an army of the dead. The story line is fast-paced while following the exploits of the beleaguered hero and heroine and the two nasty villains yet allows the audience to understand the people and cultures of the two kingdoms. Although an ¿outside¿ force the ¿Lady¿ who is not fully explained or developed¿ slows down the action with intervention at perilous moments, fans will appreciate the opening of the Chronicles of the Necromancer.
Well, I made it through this book which means it can¿t be all that bad. Though it is a bit of a disappointment and I will not be moving on to the next book in the series. For the positives, the setting is great. As a reader you can really get the feel of the world and the winter kingdoms. Martin does a great job of combining the world of the living and the dead into a setting that is believable. Not an easy thing to do I think. The characters are pretty good as well, despite the sometimes tacky dialogue. I appreciated the fast pace as well. Many fantasy authors get caught up describing every detail and every bit of a travel or waiting time that the characters go through. Martin does a pretty good job of keeping things moving along. Where this book falls apart is in the dressed up fairy tale characteristics that it takes on. I realize this is fantasy, but just as an adult knows that nothing bad is going to happen to sleeping beauty and prince charming, we also know that there is going to be some magic talisman or newly found magic or fantastic creature that will come and save the day. Now, this isn¿t an insult to fairly tales, because they have their place. It is just when an author tries to make a fairly tale for adults when things fall apart, and it comes off as a bit pretentious. It seems like every main character has to have emerald or strikingly blue eyes or something striking about their eyes. All the main characters have to be breathtakingly beautiful or roguishly handsome. It gets old real fast. It got old after the first few chapters. Within this book there were two budding romantic relationships. One of them was built up slowly and was done well. The other is very forced and awkward writing. This book isn¿t a total loss, but I can¿t give it more than two stars.
Not bad. But not realy great. Probably not going to buy the next one. The plot was very predictable, and not very compelling
If you find this on your own and are interested, by all means read it. If, however you find it like I did, based on your interest in books by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, or George R.R. Martin then don't expect it to be the same caliber, it is not.
The book follows the fantasy framework set down from generation of authors. The band of unlikely hero's Sets off to acomplish the impossible and prevails. Not good read as its to predictable and basic. Maybe good for a 12-13 year old but not a great fantas epic.
Started off a bit slow, but soon I found that I really like this story.
Did I enjoy reading the book? Most of the time. This feels like YA writing though. Every genre cliche is marched out proudly with nearly no unique spin. The pacing is fast most of the time, but jerky even at that. Readers will find that they have created better characters playing Dungeons and Dragons or video games. The political and economic realities of this fantasy world are simplistic to the point of being dimissive. I liked the cover.
Im only 14 so it was hard to understand some words but after reading this book and looking up the words i have done so much better on spelling tests. Great plot with great characters and their personalitys. Cant wait to read the rest of the series!
Abysmal writing. Flat characters, formulaic plot, halfhearted world-building. Only a matter of time till the movie adaptation comes out.
This is a very good epic/fantasy book. I know firsthand how hard it is to find a serious well written fantasy book, and I must say this is one of the best fantasy novels I have read recently. Characters are very well developed, it is fast paced, and even though the plot is cliche, it keeps you engaged the whole time. Will the story stay with you the rest of your life? Probably not, but it is a great story and I strongly recommend it.
The book was great. The writer developes the characters well, even the minor ones, and makes them come to life. The sotryline itself is not very original but the telling of the story, the plot twists, and characters make that acceptable. There is enough detail to immerse you in the story and bring the world to life but not too much that the book is hard to read. Definetly a good one, I bought the next two also and loved them.
I picked up a copy of The Summoner at a bookstore while waiting for a flight out of Orlando this March. I had just tore through Brent Weeks' Night Angel Trilogy and wanted something similar to read. The Summoner caught my eye because of the somewhat similar packaging and though I wasn't completely sold by the summary, I gave it a shot and bought it. From the first chapter I was so captivated by Martin's epic storytelling that I finished the book in about two days and then went out to find Blood King and Dark Haven, which I then finished before the week was through. What really captured me about this series was the unique depiction of vampires (aka vayash maru). When I tell my friends about this series and mention the vampires, the nearly automatic response I hear is "Oh like Twilight?" I then explain that the only similarity between the two stories is the word vampire and go on to imply that The Chronicles of the Necromancer is like Twilight for guys. It definitely shows a rougher side of vampire fantasy than that pretty boy Edward, somewhat similar to the Underworld series of films. And Martin doesn't overdo it with the vampires, having them as only a single piece of a complex jigsaw plot. I eagerly await the fourth installment, Dark Lady's Chosen, which comes out December 29th!