Widseth and his wife, Annel, must prove their mettle as leaders in the second installment of the Brazen Serpent Chronicles fantasy series.
The young Dragon Master Widseth and his partner have stuck to their promise: Rather than sit passively on their thrones, they travel to the lands of Aelandra to rebuild a peaceful Aelfene kingdom. From the beginning, Baird (Talon of Light, 2004) makes clear that they have a tough task. Deorc, the worst of the dark dragons, is back and loyal to his vile mission. He’s found himself a new puppet, a young boy tricked into servitude with promises of revenge, power and freedom. That story may sound familiar, but the themes and conflicts in this novel are more complex than in the first volume. Annel, for example, yearns for maternal responsibility but suffers from infertility, forcing her to spend much of the book on a separate path from her husband’s. Widseth, on the other hand, has become a godlike man who “exudes warmth and kindness.” He can heal the injured and bring people back from the dead—or vice versa—with the touch of a finger. The story is a fantasy through and through, but the characters have refreshingly realistic reactions to otherworldly events. When a dragon of light gets a new responsibility, he pleads, “I am not ready.” After Widseth frees a group of lifelong slaves and tells them to flee from impending danger, the group’s response is understandably dubious, even after the leader’s display of magical prowess. The book has its absurd moments: At one point, Widseth pulls Deorc’s “blackened severed hand” out of his belt pack—he’d been carting it around since the first volume in the series. For the most part, Baird describes even the most abstract concepts in lucid, visual terms: “whirlpools of energy” and “conscious light essences.” If only the blurry guide maps in the front of the book were as high quality.
Vulnerable human moments shine in this preachy sword-and-sorcery saga.