Well of Darkness

Well of Darkness

4.2 23
by Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman

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Second in line for succession to the throne, Prince Dagnarus will have his crown...and his queen -- though his heart's prize is a married elfin beauty. Let his hated half-brother Prince Helmos and the Dominion Lords dare to oppose him. For Dagnarus's most loyal servant has ventured into the terrible darkness, where lies the most potent talisman in the

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Second in line for succession to the throne, Prince Dagnarus will have his crown...and his queen -- though his heart's prize is a married elfin beauty. Let his hated half-brother Prince Helmos and the Dominion Lords dare to oppose him. For Dagnarus's most loyal servant has ventured into the terrible darkness, where lies the most potent talisman in the realm. And once it is in the dark prince's hand, no power will deter his Destiny.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The founding parents of the game-tie-in fantasy novel here launch a role-playing-game-related high fantasy trilogy in which game knowledge is irrelevant to reader enjoyment. This is a classic tale of the rivalry of two half-brothers, the sons of King Tamaros of Vinnengael: the virtuous elder Helmos and the frustrated and ambitious young Dagnarus. Along the way, Dagnarus wins the friendship and loyalty of his whipping boy, Gareth, who in due course trains as a mage and adept in forbidden Void magic, dangerous to the user but deadly to the user's enemies. Shortly after King Tamaros believes that he has made peace among the four races (human, dwarves, elves and orken), Dagnarus and Gareth together begin to undo all the king's work, unleashing a war of all against all made even worse by the lethal Void magic and the rivalries of potentates, particularly human and elven. This is a story assembled from archetypical elements, all at least slightly touched with originality. Dagnarus is a thug but also a heroic soldier, and his elven lover prefers to become one of the Void-spawned undead Vrykyl rather than be parted from him. Elven political institutions irresistibly recall the Tokugawa era of Japan.The dwarves are not metal-working troglodytes but horse archers, living light and traveling fast. Weis and Hickman (Dragons of a Fallen Son, etc.) are still not much more than good plain cooks as stylists, but here they are writing at an entirely respectable level. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
In the land of Loerem live four races—elves, dwarves, humans, and orcs—whose realms are joined by portals that transport travelers magically from one place to another. In the human city of Vinnengael, nine-year-old Gareth and Dagnarus grow up under the watchful eye of an elven chamberlain. Born on the same night, Gareth becomes Prince Dagnarus's whipping boy. Gareth prefers books to the prince's toy catapults, but a strong bond grows between the two. Gareth responds enthusiastically to the royal tutor's lessons, which Dagnarus shirks in favor of the lessons of the army captain. Initially, Gareth is a likeable, sympathetic character who is placed in the difficult position of being a friend to the cruel, capricious prince. In the second two-thirds of the novel a decade later, Gareth has become a miserable coward, a scholarly practitioner of evil magic, but still dedicated to the prince, who has turned from being merely cruel to actively evil. The battle between Dagnarus and his good brother Helmos is now the focus, and the sympathetic characters give way to uninteresting cardboard figures. Readers never see the struggle Gareth goes through when he turns to evil magic for the sake of his prince, making the change unconvincing. After a promising beginning, the novel—based on a role-playing game and the first volume in the Sovereign Stone Trilogy—loses all its subtlety and complexity of characterization. Readers will find it hard to care about any of the characters or situations. Purchase this novel for libraries with a large population of teens interested in the role-playing game. Smaller libraries and schools will want to skip this one. VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P S A/YA(Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2000, EOS/HarperCollins, 450p, Ages 16 to Adult. Reviewer: Rebecca Barnhouse SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
Library Journal
Chosen to serve as the whipping boy of the young Prince Dagnarus, Gareth becomes his master's friend and confidant as they grow to manhood and become embroiled in the affairs of the land. Tempted by dark powers, Gareth seeks to assist the prince in his search for love and glory, unaware of the greater paths each must follow to fulfill his destiny. The best-selling combination of Hickman and Weis have once again joined forces to create a rich and vibrant fantasy world populated with varied races and complex, believable characters. Based on the "Sovereign Stone" role-playing game, this epic series opener belongs in most fantasy collections. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
First of a new fantasy trilogy from the authors of dozens of best-selling yarns (Dragons of a Fallen Sun, p. 218, etc.), this one, like the Dragonlance series, based on an eponymous role-playing game. Magic portals connect the human empire of Vinnengael with the lands of the horse-riding dwarves, warrior elves, and seafaring orken. To protect the portals and promote peace, King Tamaros has called upon the gods to create Dominion Lords; their shining armor is proof against all but the most potent magical weapons. But the nonhuman races grumble that none of them are Dominion Lords, so Tamaros promises to create ten of each. The ambitious elves, meanwhile, send Silwyth into Tamaros's court as a spy. Tamaros's unruly, defiant, ignorant youngest son, Dagnarus, acquires a whipping boy, Gareth, whom Dagnarus orders to study forbidden Void magic. Tamaros calls upon the gods to create the Sovereign Stone, a huge diamond that divides into four parts, one for each race; only Dagnarus, thrilled, notes the Void at the jewel's center. At Dagnarus's behest, Gareth creates a vampire Vrykyl, as powerful as a Dominion Lord but dedicated to the Void. Dagnarus insists on becoming a Dominion Lord: during the ceremony, he's consumed by flames, then saved by the Void and clad in black armor. Tamaros dies; his heir, the scholarly Helmos, casts Dagnarus out, and civil war looms.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Sovereign Stone Series , #1
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Chapter One
The Whipping Boy

The boy gazed up at the castle. Its shining white marble walls were wet with the spray from the seven waterfalls that flowed on either side of it, four to the north and three to south, and glistened in the early-morning sun. Rainbows shimmered and danced around the castle walls. The peasants believed the rainbows were fine cloth spun by fairies, and more than one silly lad had gone to his death in the tumbling water trying to snag them.

The boy knew better. He knew that rainbows were not substantial, being made of nothing more than sunlight and water. Only that which exists in both the darkness and in the light is real. The boy had been taught to believe only in what was real and substantial.

The boy looked at the castle without much feeling, good or bad, nothing but a sort of uncaring fatalism that is often seen in ill-used dogs. Not that the boy had been particularly ill-used in his life, if to be ignored is not to be ill-used. He was about to leave his parents and his home and enter into a new life and by rights he should have felt sad, homesick, frightened, and trepidatious. He felt none of those: only tired, from the long walk, and uncomfortably warm and itchy in his new woolen stockings.

He and his father stood before the gate set in a high outer wall. Beyond the gate was a courtyard and beyond the courtyard myriad steps leading up into the castle, which had been built against a cliff. The castle looked out to the west, gazing out over Lake Ildurel, its back planted solidly against the rocks to the east. Its very topmost turrets were level with the River Hammerclaw, which flowed from east to west andwhose rushing water, tumbling over the cliff face, created the rainbows.

The castle walls were white marble—the boy had once seen a representation of the castle at a feast, made of sugar lumps—and it was several stories tall. How many stories the boy could not count because the castle roamed all over the cliff face. So many turrets jutted off every which way, so many battlements slanted off in such different directions, and so many small lead-paned glass windows winked in the sunlight that the sight confused him. He had wanted to play with the sugar castle, and his mother had told him he might, but the next morning he found it had been eaten by mice.

The boy gazed, awed, at this castle, which was not made of sugar and not likely to be eaten by mice or even dragons. One wing of the castle caught his eye. This was a wing to the east, overlooking the four waterfalls. Atop it was a turret larger than all the rest, with a balcony that stretched around it. That was the King's Walk, said his father. King Tamaros, blessed of the gods, was the only person permitted to walk that balcony.

The King must be able to see the whole world from there, the boy thought. Or if not the whole world, then at least the entire great city of Vinnengael. The boy could practically see the whole city himself, just standing on the palace steps.

Vinnengael was built on three levels, the lowest level being even with the lake, which stretched to the horizon, its distant shore just barely visible from the King's Walk. The second level of the city was built atop a cliff that rose up from the first level. The third level was built atop another cliff, which rose from the second. The palace stood on the third level. Across from the palace, behind the boy and across a vast marble courtyard, was the Temple of the Magi.

Temple and palace, the heart of the kingdom and its head, were the only two major structures standing on the third level. Soldiers' barracks occupied the north; the barracks were attached to the palace. To the south, built on a jutting rock groin, were the elegant houses of the foreign ambassadors.

The men-at-arms guarding the outer gate gave the boy's father a bored glance as the two of them passed through. The boy craned his neck to gaze up at the huge portcullis, with its rows of grim teeth. He would have liked to stop, hoping to see some blood, for he was well acquainted with the tale of Nathan of Neyshabur, one of the heroes of Vinnengael, who had ordered the portcullis to be lowered though he himself was standing beneath it, fending off the kingdom's enemies, refusing to give ground though the wicked teeth thundered down upon him. Nathan of Neyshabur had lived and died several hundred years ago, when the city and the castle, but not the rainbows,were young. It was therefore unlikely that his blood would still be dripping from the portcullis, but the boy felt disappointed, nonetheless.

His father yanked at the boy's mantle and demanded to know what he thought he was doing, gawking like an ork during festival time, and hustled the boy along.

They walked across a vast courtyard and entered the castle proper, where the boy was immediately lost. His father knew the way well, however, being one of the King's courtiers, and he led the boy up marble stairs and down marble halls and around marble statues and past marble columns until they reached an antechamber, where the father shoved the boy down onto a carved wood chair and summoned a servant.

The boy gazed at the high ceilings, stained with soot from the winter fires, and at the wall opposite, where hung a tapestry that depicted long-bodied, long-snouted, long-eared dogs that resembled no known dog then living and people all turned sideways hunting a stag which, by its expression, appeared to be enjoying it all immensely though it had six arrows in it.

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Author Essay
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are one of fantasy fiction's most popular writing duos. Their recent New York Times bestseller, Dragons of a Fallen Sun, kicked off a new Dragonlance trilogy set in the familiar world of Krynn. But, since the latest from this prolific team, Well of Darkness, is set in a wholly new and distant world, Margaret and Tracy graciously offered to set it up for us. Scroll down for this exclusive letter from the inestimable Weis and Hickman. Enjoy!

Setting Up the Sovereign Stone
by Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman

Well of Darkness (Book One of The Sovereign Stone trilogy) is the first new fantasy series that Tracy and I have written since the Deathgate series that ended six years ago. We've been keeping busy with the Dragonlance books, but if there's one thing Tracy and I love to do, it's go out searching for new lands to explore and new stories to tell.

Our dear friend, noted fantasy artist Larry Elmore, is the one who first brought us to the world of Loerem, the new fantasy world in which Well of Darkness is set. Larry has long dreamed of and painted this world, populating it with fascinating people. He knows their stories, their history, their background.

Larry had painted this world, but he wanted someone else to put it into words. He told his tale to Tracy and to me over dinner one night; we were entranced and resolved to visit this world ourselves and put its legends, magic, and heroes into novels.

Loerem is a fantasy world replete with elves, dwarves, orks, and humans, with magic, gods, and dragons. But there are a few twists. Orks are not the usual stupid cannon fodder. They are the technologists of this world, experienced sailors, highly superstitious. The elves are reminiscent of feudal Japan, a race steeped in honor and tradition. Dwarves dwell on the vast plains. Nomads, they roam the plains on small, shaggy ponies. The human race is divided into many cultures, an intriguing mix of Western European, Polynesian, African, and Arabian.

Paladin knights of good strive to guard the uneasy peace, while undead vampiric knights of the Void seek realms to conquer. Dragons hold themselves aloof, watching the foibles of mankind with amusement, disdain, or hatred.

The first novel in The Sovereign Stone trilogy, Well of Darkness, tells the story of Prince Dagnarus, a charming, handsome, and ambitious second son. This story details his rise to power, a rise that will have terrible and unforeseen consequences for him, for those who follow him and for those who are bent on his destruction. It is a tale of deceit, intrigue, and murder blended with the dark forces of Void magic. But is also a tale of love, courage and honor, as Paladins of good strive to conquer undead knights of the Void. Events that happen in this book will play a major role in the future of Loerem, a future whose story will be related in Book 2, Guardians of the Lost.

For those who enjoy role-playing, we have worked in conjunction with Corsair Publishers to create the Sovereign Stone RPG line. These gamebooks not only provide a new and interesting role-playing game system, but they also provide novel readers with a great wealth of background information on the world they will read about in the first of The Sovereign Stone trilogy.

We hope you enjoy the book!

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