"Heroic fantasy at its very best and documents author Jacob Gowans as an impressively gifted storyteller with a complete mastery of the genre."
"Combine(s) the right amounts of love, adventure and friendship into a page-turning masterpiece."
"Nefarious villains, vibrant country people, and a whiff of magic make for a colorful, high-fantasy adventure story."
Young lovers flee the clutches of a scheming emperor in this ponderous series opener.Gowans threads his tale with disguised Christian elements, though he’s no C.S. Lewis. Henry—master carpenter and peacemaker, stubbornly loyal to friends even after they betray him—dramatically rescues his drugged sweetheart, Isabelle, who has been sold to a sinister visiting ruler from an adjacent country by her despicable father. He then rides for the border with four contentious allies and a fortune in gold coins. The fugitives’ most persistent problems prove to be not their inept pursuers but their own moral failings. Amid constant arguments and sharpening suspicion, the gold begins to disappear, various members sneak away on mysterious errands, several harbor hinted-at secrets, and one turns out to be a traitor. Along with being light on suspense and ambling of pace, this epic features a poorly realized setting and a cast in which not only do certain minor characters show more facets than major ones, but the women do little aside from coming along, needing rescue or, following a climactic ambush, being paraded in a cage. The end leaves the company scattered, but the internecine conflict at least is resolved as two members beg to be forgiven their trespasses and at least one gets a kiss of peace.Occasional sparks of inspiration fail to kindle a sodden heap of anemic roles and tropes. (free prequel available for download) (Fantasy. 12-14)
Read an Excerpt
Isabelle was barely able to see what was happening as her sight dimmed. She saw the monk's robe behind the Emperor's chair, and realized that the flash of light was the reflection of the candles on a sword--a sword pressed against the Emperor's neck. "Move an inch, and I'll slit your throat," Henry's voice ordered from beneath the hood.