Ward and Carver’s meandering first installment of a fantasy series includes a large ensemble of warriors and magical animals.
The debut co-authors’ novel follows a group of adventurers as they seek an ancient magical artifact—the so-called Staff of Amathon—necessary to locate the Circle Stones, which together create Hierophant’s Circle. In the distant past, a mysterious entity destroyed the Circle, a font of great power. In order for the group to restore it, they must locate its missing stones. The company includes Raveena, the de facto leader and a skilled fighter capable of casting spells; Raven, a one-eyed warrior, who, like Raveena, is of the Mershai race; the druid and shape-shifter Talasine; and Khonnar, a young, impetuous soldier keen to win glory in battle. The similarity of many characters’ names and the sheer number of animal companions the group totes along with it—a veritable menagerie of warhorses, wolves and drakes (small dragons that have an empathic connection with their owners)—may strain readers’ memories. Along the way, the heroes meet with any number of travelers and undertake what might be deemed “mini-quests”—clearing a village of the undead, for example. The tale resembles a video game, where the combatant must complete a number of tasks in service of the larger goal. This structure, however, results in a rather stilted read with little urgency. In addition, the narrative focus shifts confusingly: “Talasine sat quietly drinking in every word from her lips. He is listening intently to my every word.” The text abounds with basic errors—“Oh, your hurt!”—and missing commas.
An action-packed but somewhat muddled tale.