The Twilight Herald (Twilight Reign Series #2)

( 6 )

Overview

Lord Bahl is dead and the young white-eye, Isak, stands in his place; less than a year after being plucked from obscurity and poverty the charismatic new Lord of the Farlan finds himself unprepared to deal with the attempt on his life that now spells war, and the possibility of rebellion waiting for him at home.

Now the eyes of the land turn to the minor city of Scree, which could soon be obliterated as the new Lord of the Farlan flexes his powers. Scree is suffering under an ...

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Overview

Lord Bahl is dead and the young white-eye, Isak, stands in his place; less than a year after being plucked from obscurity and poverty the charismatic new Lord of the Farlan finds himself unprepared to deal with the attempt on his life that now spells war, and the possibility of rebellion waiting for him at home.

Now the eyes of the land turn to the minor city of Scree, which could soon be obliterated as the new Lord of the Farlan flexes his powers. Scree is suffering under an unnatural summer drought and surrounded by volatile mercenary armies that may be its only salvation.

This is a strange sanctuary for a fugitive abbot to flee to – but he is only the first of many to be drawn there. Kings and princes, lords and monsters, all walk the sun-scorched streets.

As elite soldiers clash after dark and actors perform cruel and subversive plays that work their way into the hearts of the audience, the city begins to tear itself apart – yet even chaos can be scripted.

There is a malevolent will at work in Scree, one that has a lesson for the entire land: nations can be manipulated, prophecies perverted and Gods denied.

Nothing lies beyond the reach of a shadow, and no matter how great a man's power, there some things he cannot be protected from.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this elaborate and character-laden sequel to 2008's The Stormcaller , Isak the White-Eyed, new ruler of the Farlan tribe, tries to save the city of Scree as a magical spell turns it into a cesspit of evil and death. With the aid of a dubious group of comrades, Isak investigates the blessing and curse of his white eyes, which grant him mostly unexplained magical powers and superior strength as well as a powerful rage he must learn to control. As he matures, the plot deepens, with several characters questioning their loyalties and pursuing unclear agendas. The result is a wonderfully dense and often gruesome story of martial might and raw magic. Fans who liked the first book but thought Lloyd could do better will be thrilled to be proven right. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Upon the death of Lord Bahl, the youthful and charismatic Isak takes his place as heir and Lord of the Farlan and faces attempted assassination and outright war as subversives of all kinds seem to flock to the minor city of Scree. This sequel to The Stormcaller continues the tale of a young man of unprepossessing beginnings, chosen for a great destiny and thrust into struggles that threaten his life and identity. Epic battles and highly personal drama combine to create grand fantasy adventure, filled with strongly realized characters and a richly vivid worldscape. A good addition to fantasy collections.


—Jackie Cassada
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591027331
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 3/24/2009
  • Series: Twilight Reign Series , #2
  • Pages: 562
  • Sales rank: 504,280
  • Product dimensions: 8.16 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Lloyd is the author of four other novels in the Twilight Reign series: The Stormcaller (Book One), The Grave Thief (Book Three), The Ragged Man (Book Four), and The Dusk Watchman (Book Five). He was born in 1979 and spent most of his childhood believing his mother was a witch—a white witch. He followed his degree in politics and international relations with a series of jobs in publishing, and currently works for an independent publisher in London. He lives in South London.

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Read an Excerpt


The Twilight Herald

Book Two of the Twilight Reign


By Tom Lloyd
Prometheus Books
Copyright © 2009

Tom Lloyd
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-1-59102-733-1



Chapter One At the peak of a long gentle rise, Isak gave a tug on his reins to bring his charger to a halt and leaned on the pommel of his saddle, surveying the ground ahead. His companions joined him on the level crest and waited quietly at his side, enjoying the view. It was well into what had been an afternoon of uninterrupted sunshine and a warm breeze drifted up off the long, empty meadow, bringing the scents of dry grass and blooming wildflowers. The undulating plain, spotted by the odd copse of trees, stretched for a dozen empty miles before reaching the dark edges of a forest. In the far distance a darker patch indicated some sort of lake.

Isak remembered the forest from when he'd travelled this way in his previous life, as an unknown and irrelevant youth on a wagon train. His life now, as the duke he had become, could not be more different. There was only one road, carpeted with pine needles, winding its way under a high canopy of massive old pines. It had felt like the last bastion of home before the Land opened up to admit everyone else, despite being well outside the Farlan border. To the right was a line of five gorse-skirted hillocks, and he remembered the sight from the other side. The regular humps had always looked too neat and, side-on, the line was like the back of some vast serpent sliding out of its burrow in the slope where they now stood.

Carel, commander of Isak's guard, the friend and mentor of his youth, had told him of the many battles that had been fought just because those hills resembled a snake, the chosen creature of their patron God Nartis; that alone had been enough for past lords in Tirah to consider this place the rightful border between nations, but they had never been able to hold it. A quirk of terrain meant this place was easily surrounded and cut off by armies approaching from the south. The watchtowers put up to warn of approaching enemies, like the castle built on the border itself, had long since been pulled down and now scarcely a trace of their position remained.

They had made good time in their urgent flight home, thanks to King Emin's royal barge, which sped them to the border where one of his black-clad agents had already secured a fast river-boat for the next leg of the trip, but suddenly Isak was in no hurry to cross into territory that was now his own. Here it was peaceful; here they had the Land to themselves. After their defeat in Narkang, the White Circle had retreated completely from the conflict in Tor Milist and the ruling duke had in turn recalled all of his forces to mop up those cut adrift. Suddenly Tor Milist's eastern border, that ran alongside the very river that had carried Isak and his party home, was quieter than at any time in the last century. Isak felt a smile creep over his face as the sun warmed his cheeks. He could hear birds, the distinctive warble of song-thrushes somewhere in the dark gorse bushes and, further off, a flock of starlings chattering as they circled in the sky.

I remember a day like this, hawking in the hills of Meyon with my sons and my cousins. The wind smelled the same as today: warm grass and wildflowers on the breeze.

Isak nodded in absentminded agreement with the voice in his head. Count Vesna caught the movement out of the corner of his eye. The handsome nobleman tilted his head up to look at Isak, then gave an almost imperceptible shiver and turned away. Isak had told his companions what happened that night in Llehden, when prophecy had invaded his life and the soul of a dead king had invaded his head. Vesna had said nothing then, and had hardly mentioned it since. Isak could tell he didn't know what to think. The implications were both terrifying and momentous, not just for Isak, but for their entire nation.

Mihn sat quietly behind Isak, watching his lord's every movement. He had accepted the situation with his usual fatalistic manner, while Carel and Tila had taken it on board quickly, momentarily stunned, then interested- they'd found their voices quickly and it had taken Isak an hour or more to calm their fears and reassure the pair that he was in no danger. It was hard for them to accept that the soul of Aryn Bwr had tried to take over his body and failed, but Isak persuaded them that Aryn Bwr's failure was his gain. If the Land expected him to act like a king, then who better to have as an advisor than the greatest king the Land had ever seen? That the dead Elf was also the Gods' greatest enemy was something of a complication, but Isak was sure he was completely under control, even if his companions had yet to be convinced.

The poppies looked like spilled blood on the ground. There were omens in the sky, and over the Land, but I failed them. I failed to see what was in front of me.

Isak ignored the voice as it fell into melancholy, determined not to let the captive spirit ruin his good mood. Unbroken summer sun was a rare thing in the Spiderweb Mountains and the Farlan cherished such days. Foreigners would joke that the Farlan would halt a war for the chance to enjoy the sun, and as Isak sat there and felt the warmth on his cheeks it sounded a perfectly sensible idea to him. The early evening sun hovered a little above the horizon, casting a golden light out over the Land, freezing it in a long moment of peace before twilight would be permitted its reign.

The last king had fragmented his own soul to escape Death's final judgment, hiding his thoughts and memories inside the Crystal Skulls he'd forged for that purpose. Now, as those memories returned to the dead king, Isak felt the echoes of Aryn Bwr's pain. He cast around, searching for something to push the Elf's dismal thoughts from his mind, but there was little to attract the attention. They were almost at the highest point in the area, but aside from the narrow dirt track they were following there was nothing but a small cairn of stones, some thirty yards away.

In the hills of Meyon I held my heir and watched him die. In the hills of Meyon I cursed the ground where Velere died.

Isak felt a wave of sadness and rage radiate through his body, and he remembered the letter he had carried to King Emin about the place called Velere's Fell. It was no longer a tale of horror on the page for him, but a glimpse of grief and fury so strong it still scarred the Land, seven thousand years later, and its echo left a sour taste in Isak's mouth. Isak sighed and scratched his cheek, waving away the inquisitive fly that was darting around his face. Are you really going to ruin a beautiful view for me? he wondered.

This Land is so different to the one I used to know, the voice went on, musing. Its colour has been bleeding out over the long years. Now it is grey, and marked by the scars of my passing. Aryn Bwr was lost in his own thoughts again; only twice since leaving Llehden had Isak actually conversed with the spirit that had taken up residence inside his head.

"That's my good mood gone," he muttered, and he slid from the saddle.

"My Lord?" Vesna enquired.

"I just need to stretch my legs for a bit," Isak said with a dismissive wave of the hand. Carel immediately gave the order for the guards to split up, as he did every time they stopped for a break, then he dismounted himself and joined his young lord. Isak forced a smile and draped an arm over the old man's shoulder. As they wandered slowly towards the cairn of stones, Isak felt his smile become genuine. Here was a strange thing: only after it had become unseemly for a man in his position had Isak ever felt the urge to hug the man he thought more of a father to him than Horman had ever been.

"You want to pray?" Carel asked in a dubious tone. He'd known Isak for most of the white-eye's life; Isak had always resented piety when it was imposed upon him.

Isak shrugged. "I should probably get into the habit one of these days, now that I'm important."

"Still, it's not something I'd expect from you," the marshal said softly, careful to keep his voice low so no one could overhear them. The soldiers were handpicked, men of the Palace Guard and completely trustworthy, but this was too astonishing a secret to entrust to anyone else.

"Nor from him," Isak reminded him with a smile. "Stop fretting like an old woman; Tila can do that perfectly well for the two of you."

"Then what is this about?" Carel said, puzzled.

Isak sighed. "It's nothing important, I just want to enjoy this view for a few minutes and clear my head. He's been finding his memories, the ones locked away in the Crystal Skulls. While part of him had been with me since I was born, there's much that has been missing for millennia, and it's not all cheering. The defeated have fewer happy memories." As he spoke, his fingers went automatically to the glassy shape now fused onto his cuirass. Having felt the vast power they contained, he'd been reluctant to test the ancient artefacts but, strangely, their presence was still comforting.

"What sort of memories?"

"Battles, the death of his son, sometimes just senseless fragments, like my dreams, and sometimes things that explain much."

"Such as?" Carel encouraged softly.

"You remember the day when this all began?"

"Aracnan?"

Anger smouldered in Isak's gut until he smothered it. "Aracnan. He killed Velere, Aryn Bwr's son and heir. I felt Aryn Bwr's hatred, which is why I wouldn't go with him-and I guess that was why Aracnan didn't come any closer; he didn't know what he was dealing with. When he reached out with his senses, I wasn't just the frightened young boy he expected."

"And if you meet him again?" Vesna, with Tila on his arm, joined Isak and Carel, both looking anxiously at the white-eye. The religious charms that were fastened to yellow ribbons and plaited into Tila's long hair tinkled gently in the breeze.

Isak scowled. "I don't have an answer to that." He looked back the way they'd come, almost as if he expected Aracnan to appear, but the trail was clear. Beehunters skimmed the ground, their crooked green wings spread stiffly as they snapped at prey he couldn't see. The slender birds would have been a good sign if he'd been truly worried about pursuit; they wouldn't hunt if there were men lying hidden in the grass. "If I meet Aracnan again I don't know what he'll do," he admitted.

"But what will you do? Will you be able to control-him-before he lashes out like he did at the High Priest of Larat?" Tila asked.

"That was different, I wasn't prepared for him then," Isak said. "Now I know exactly what danger he poses. You'll all have to just trust me that Aryn Bwr's simply not strong enough to take over now. At the Ivy Rings he had his only chance-and he failed. Prepared, I'm too strong for him-and I'm still getting stronger."

"Still?"

Isak smiled. "Perhaps not physically, but I've found there are other things that count-Gods, Carel, can you believe that it was less than a year ago I was driving your wagon and complaining that I'd never even be allowed to join the Palace Guard?" He laughed.

They reached the shrine and Isak ran his fingers over the waist-high cairn. Someone had taken great care fitting the stones together to make it concave rather than conical. It curved around an offering bowl fixed firmly into the structure so half of it was sticking out. The bowl itself was made of rough clay, plain and unfinished, but its contents showed someone valued the shrine. A carved bone comb, a worn but serviceable knife and two small copper coins; they meant nothing to Isak but they were significant enough for whatever shepherd had left them in the first place. Above the bowl was a rounded shard of slate on which had been scratched Vrest's horns symbol.

"Aye," confirmed the veteran with a grim face, "less than a year since I joked that the Gods might have a plan for you. Careless words in this life."

The silver-haired man stepped away from the shrine, hawked up noisily and spat onto the dusty ground. That act earned an admonishing look from Tila, at which Carel hung his head and, after a moment of looking sheepish, he reached into his money-pouch to find a coin for the offering bowl. Tila's reproach vanished into the glittering smile that Carel had never been able to resist. She beamed at the man as though the veteran guardsman was a five-year-old just learning right from wrong. Carel knelt in front of the shrine and said a short, silent prayer to accompany his offering. As the man bowed his head, Isak felt a touch of breeze skitter down his neck like cool breath. He turned instinctively, but there was nothing there, only the certainty in his mind that the local God of this place was close at hand.

Isak reached out with his senses as gently as he could and to his surprise saw a blurred shadowy shape, like a hawk, circling slowly above the shrine. With a start he realised how frightened the spirit was; strange, he'd expected it to keep as far from him as possible. He placed a hand on the shrine and felt a shudder run through the spirit above it. Suddenly it all made sense: the local God hadn't moved away because it couldn't bear to allow him between it and the shrine. The shrine was all it had.

"It's not been consecrated," Isak muttered.

"Eh?" Carel said. "The shrine? What about the symbol of Vrest, then?" "I assume the shepherd who built this doesn't know much about religion. He probably built it to give thanks for finding a lost lamb or something like that, so it made sense to put the symbol there. He didn't realise a priest still needed to consecrate it."

"I will make a note of it, and we'll inform the nearest border village unmen," Vesna said.

"Don't bother," Isak replied. "It's over the border, and it won't remain peaceful in Tor Milist for long. There are too many mercenaries-any priest daring to come this way will need an armed escort, and that escort would either be the local suzerain's hurscals-and then we'll be accused of taking part in the conflict-or soldiers wearing neither crest nor colours, and they'd risk attack by anyone who sees them."

Vesna stared at him before a smile spread over his face. "Gods on high, perhaps we'll make a lord of you yet!"

Isak gave a snort and grabbed Carel by the scruff of his neck to haul him upright again. "Perhaps you will at that-and to think all I ever wanted was to join the Palace Guard. You people should learn to pay more attention when you're handing out jobs!"

The comment provoked a burst of laughter from his companions. "If you'll forgive the observation, my Lord," Vesna said, his grin widening, "you've still not passed the trials. Now I'm willing to admit you've done a few things on the battlefield some might call noteworthy, but that doesn't mean you can just walk into the Ghosts."

Isak gave a hiss of mock exasperation and thumped the count on the shoulder in response.

"I can't see Kerin agreeing to it," Carel agreed, "but I'm not going to be one to complain about unearned honours; I still don't quite believe I'm now Marshal Carelfolden, and you're still just some snotty-nosed child I took pity on a few times. Sweet Nartis, it must be more than thirteen summers since I found you snivelling in that wood, knees and elbows all scratched up-feels like last month. What'd they done to you again?"

The four of them began to walk back to the horses. Mihn stood with Mistress Daran, Tila's chaperone, holding the reins.

"They led me out to the river," Isak replied in a small voice, his smile fading somewhat, "then they pushed me down the bank and left me lost out there."

"Ah yes, nasty little buggers some of them were. Still, children don't know better and their parents didn't give 'em any reason to think what they were doing was wrong. We got them back though, didn't we?" Carel chortled.

The memory restored Isak's cheer. "Garner berries, still one of the best ideas you ever had. Never felt so happy at the smell of shit as that day!" He scratched his cheek and looked west towards Scree, where the surviving White Circle and Fysthrall troops were believed to have fled. "I think it's going to take more than garner berries to get the revenge I need nowadays."

Vesna gave a nod. Isak had put off the discussion of how he was going to respond to the White Circle's attempt to enslave him, though he had talked freely since leaving Narkang about what had happened in the abandoned temple in Llehden, and his connection with the white-eye, Xeliath. The Yeetatchen girl was something else he didn't fully understand, and another decision Isak knew he would have to make soon. He just had to hope that those closest to him wouldn't become too nervous of the company Isak kept in his mind: the Gods' greatest enemy, and the daughter of a foreign nobleman, one of the Farlan's ancient adversaries.

"A wagon-brat shouldn't have to make this sort of decision," Isak sighed.

Tila shook her head. "Better a wagon-brat with some sort of a brain than half of those bred for the job." Her vehemence took them all by surprise, but Tila carried on regardless, "Read a history of the Litse sometime and you'll see what I'm talking about. The Farlan have remained strong because of the new blood it brings into the aristocracy. The other tribes might mock us for our rigidity in tradition, but the Litse's biggest problem has always been the fact that commoners can never amount to anything. The ruling élite has always been weak and bickering, while the armies are led by men with the right family background, not any skill at the job. You might not have the training for your title, but we'll rectify that-and at least you don't have the baggage a proud family history always brings."

(Continues...)




Excerpted from The Twilight Herald by Tom Lloyd Copyright © 2009 by Tom Lloyd. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Dude this book is awesome, and to people who are reading it don'

    Dude this book is awesome, and to people who are reading it don't give up on it. It might get boring at times but if you keep going it gets really interesting. It all ties together trust me.

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Tom Lloyd provides a deep complicated political fantasy in which Machiavelli and Borgia would feel at home

    The ¿White Eye¿ Isak has become Lord of the Farlan tribe following his victory at Narkang (see STORMCALLER). Aiding his claim to overall rule of the Land is possession of two crystal skulls and the sharing of his brain with the soul of dark Elf Aryn Bwr although he is not sure how much help that provides him. Still Isak returns to Tirah in triumph, only someone tries to kill him whom he assumes is baffling Azaer or perhaps a member or the entire group of the deadly White Circle. He suspects seditious actions by others, who either feel they should be in charge or he is unworthy. <BR/><BR/>Although he knows he must focus on those planning seditious acts and assassination attempts, he sees an opportunity to avenge the downfall of Lord Bahl. He heads to the divided city Scree where insanity rules due to a seemingly ¿controlled¿ drought leading to no one trusting anyone and death and danger are everywhere. Isak does not care or fear anyone even those trying to kill him; for he is on a mission of vengeance, which many of the Farlan believes means razing the small city as an example of Isak¿s power.<BR/><BR/>The Twilight Herald is a complex well written fantasy filled with political intrigue and backstabbing that make the Democrats and Republicans look like friendly playmates. The story line is loaded with several major action-packed subplots though most remain dangling for the future; but to truly digest especially the first quarter of the novel with so much happening from the onset the audience needs to have read THE STORMCALLER. Isak successfully takes over the role of solo star with Bahl gone as Tom Lloyd provides a deep complicated political fantasy in which Machiavelli and Borgia would feel at home.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

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