Dramatic illustrations draw the reader into the Tolkienesque world of Ruin Mist, plunged into darkness after a Great War five hundred years past. Blaming magic for their demise, the Kings of Men have decreed that all things magical be destroyed. Yet despite their efforts, the magical Dark Lord is slowly returning to power. Another bloody battle is foreshadowed for Ruin Mist when Adrina, the spoiled and lonely princess of Imtal, is visited by a mysterious woman who predicts Adrina's ghastly future. Meanwhile in the kingdom of Elves, Seth, devoted First of the Red Order of the Queen Mother Elf, is sent on a journey across the Great Sea to prevent war. Stuck somewhere in the middle is Vilmos, a young magical boy-who-would-be-mage, abducted for his own safety by a Yoda-like guide named Xith. All three journey to an unknown fate against treacherous and sometimes supernatural foes. Stanek augments the beginning of this complex tale with illustrations that are sure to attract fans of graphic novels and classic Tolkien alike-the only weakness in the illustrations is their scarcity. Stanek will likely draw a cult following, but his work is not for the novice fantasy reader. A complicated glossary at the end includes twenty-two pages of "People, Places, and Things in Ruin Mist," complete with geographical references, family lineages, and extraordinary sketches. Despite the sophisticated plot, however, this cliffhanger guarantees fans, and those fans will be ready to wield their swords against the Dark Lord in Stanek's next installment.