In this fantasy debut, a hermit who abandoned his wizard training takes up magic again to save not only a kingdom, but also the future.
In the kingdom of Eneri Clare, 17-year-old Tvrdik is a shy student of magic. He, along with teenagers Benjin and Ailianne, learns wizarding ways in a schoolhouse run by Xaarus, the court wizard for King Darius II. One night, Tvrdik hears his classmates sneak out into the woods; he follows and watches them attempt dangerous magic that ends up destroying them. Following this tragedy, Xaarus disappears and Tvrdik builds a cottage near a secluded waterfall, trying to regain a measure of peace. After 12 years, Xaarus returns, finds his former pupil, and explains that he’s been lost in time. If an upcoming battle in Eneri Clare isn’t properly won, he says, the future will be “gray and grim” and “filled with fear and violence, divisions and iniquities.” There will also be no magic. Armed with this foreknowledge, Tvrdik ventures to the Palace of Theriole where he must convince Jorelial Rey—who’s been caring for the infant King Darius III since his parents’ demise at sea—that she must prepare for a most untraditional war. In her uplifting debut, Lindevald mixes traditional fantasy elements—such as dragons, unicorns, and water sprites—to gleeful effect. She cleverly abstains, however, from using a straightforward prophecy to whip the plot along. Instead, she has Tvrdik keep in telepathic communication with Xaarus, who goes on to be trapped in a dismal future where magical energy must be expended carefully. Lindevald’s graceful prose drives the narrative, offering full-bodied atmosphere in lines such as “Surrounded by supple young birches and scented flowering vines, [the waterfall] passed the day in a sort of filtered green haze, interrupted by rainbows.” Readers may also savor the first few hundred pages, in which Tvrdik and Jorelial haven’t yet realized their shared romantic destiny; all the while, they become confidants who emotionally stabilize each other. The epic finale serves the book’s larger point that “Violence, even in the cause of good, only begets more violence.”
A fabulous debut that proves epic fantasy doesn’t need excessive violence to succeed.