Humans and mystical creatures band together to stop an evil sorcerer in Batchelder’s debut, the first in a fantasy series.
Tarmun Vykers is a notorious warrior called The Reaper. He’s mercilessly beaten by men and left in the forest with his hands and feet severed. He finds an unlikely rescuer in Arune, the ghost of a being (called a Shaper) capable of magic. Vykers agrees to share his body with Arune in exchange for his extremities—even if they’re invisible. Before he can return to full strength, he’s captured by the Virgin Queen’s men. The Queen, despite being the one who ordered Vykers’ mutilation, needs the warrior’s help. A powerful sorcerer calling himself The End-of-All-Things is decimating the land and its people, and the Queen wants Vykers to halt the End’s advance. Aoife, meanwhile, seeks vengeance against her brother Anders (aka the End). One of the magical A’Shea, Aoife gives birth to beasts of the forest, such as a satyr, all of whom will soon join the fight against her wicked brother. Numerous prolonged journeys occur before the impending battle. But Batchelder maintains impressive momentum with short scenes, switching between, for example, Vykers and Long Pete, who, along with friends, joins the Queen’s military. There’s likewise distinction among the plethora of characters: Arune’s merely a voice in Vykers’ head but offers sage advice and takes over if necessary (rendering the warrior unconscious to avoid a fight he’d likely lose); and Spirk, one of Long’s traveling companions, clearly functions as comic relief. The fantasy treks through mostly familiar terrain, including magical swords and chimeras that fight alongside Vykers. But there are original creatures too, like the Svarren, which are misshapen, wart-covered humanoid beings. The plot, not surprisingly, entails a hefty amount of action, especially once it reaches the inevitable conflict between the End’s and the Queen’s armies. Intrigue, however, abounds when swords aren’t clashing: the chimeras may be untrustworthy, while at least one character is not what he or she seems. Vykers is a remarkable, indelible protagonist, an antihero as equally lethal as the End.
A world most readers will already know but a story told with affection and skill.