Kingdoms are thrown into chaos as a prophesized war looms in Spier's debut fantasy series opener.
In 1564, many people disregard Tyrianna, a reputed Sea Witch, who foretells a "great sundering" and a "great war." Then an elf from the Elven Kingdom of Valantir also predicts imminent doom as a mysterious fever spreads throughout the land. Meanwhile, King Kazius Auguron of Razadur leads an army primed for battle with surrounding kingdoms. But Kazius may not be the greatest menace they face; the people of Oakthorn, for example, are soon headed toward a possible confrontation with undead creatures, including vampires, ghouls, and zombies. There's personal turmoil for some characters, as well. Oakthorn's Honor Guard captain, Conrad Redmane, for one, must go into hiding after someone tries to pin a double murder on him. One of Conrad's guards, Sgt. Alex Mill, also known as "Alex the Meek," desperately searches for his kidnapped daughter, Molly. Tyriana's visions of the great sundering include three champions who'll need help to battle the impending evil. Indeed, a series of clashes is inevitable, with the kingdoms perpetually endangered by creatures such as dragons, demons, and a savage werewolf. Spier impressively manages a plethora of characters in this titanic novel. Some have similar names (or even the same first one, such as Alex Mill and Alex Redoak of Oakthorn), but the author makes sure that readers are never confused. The large cast does make the book feel more like a collection of subplots than a cohesive tale, particularly as there's no discernible protagonist. Nevertheless, intriguing mysteries abound, from the identities of "the Bad Wolf" and the leader of the undead, to revelations about certain characters' relationships to one another. Much of the plot progresses via abundant but sharply focused dialogue, and although the serious narrative is largely devoid of humor, the frequent insults are memorable, such as "bootlicking slime," "spineless slugs," and "crotchety old bastard."
Rich, lively characters make this epic tale a journey worth taking.