In this opening volume of a debut epic fantasy series, Barnes places readers in the world of Shr?an, whose long and storied history lurks in the background and adds a weight and depth that lets us know this is just one of many stories to be told. In Indris, we have the kind of reluctant hero who drives so many fascinating fantasy tales. Indris’s story also starts in the middle as he saves his father-in-law from a siege. It is only as the greater tale unfolds that we learn how and why they arrived in that time and place and who their enemies are. Indris is a scholar-mage and a mercenary, but he was intended to be something much grander. He may yet be. In the meantime, emperors and would-be emperors use their families as pawns in the great game of empires, and one powerful man tries to cheat death and rebuild an empire through the use of forbidden magic. He must be stopped, but the price in blood and honor will be incredibly high.
Verdict Barnes drops his readers into a complex world that makes for an immersive experience for lovers of epic fantasy. The political machinations and constant familial betrayals are reminiscent of Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel” series. Although Indris is the main protagonist on the “good” side, the female characters on both sides are every bit as strong as the males, a refreshing change in epic fantasy. Highly recommended.Marlene Harris, Seattle P.L.
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