This debut novel sees a fragile peace imperiled by a cult of assassins.
In Wallevet Ministry, a territory of the Donovan Kingdom, Lord Minister Raymond Reimvick has been killed. This places the Empire Alliance—which keeps delicate peace between the Donovards and the Almerians to the north—at risk, because Raymond was the only one willing to negotiate for the treaty’s extension. The Donovard king, Erech Avaleau, is weak in mind and body. Many jockey for his throne, including his brother, Duke Brugarn. Fortunately, the loyal Maillard Valient, lord minister of Delavon Ministry, heads for Eglamour Palace to aid the king. In the palace, Princess Milisend learns to replace jewels with thimbles from her lover and master thief, Regaume. Her behavior doesn’t go unnoticed by Chief Magistrate Tronchet, who’s determined to catch her. Meanwhile, at the Perilune Academy, a cadet named Fetzer has failed to make squire yet again. Worse, he’s bullied by his classmates and mocked for keeping a journal. After going on a bloody rampage, he escapes Barres Ministry aboard the ship Meurden. He then meets members of the Order of the Candlestone. Led by the alchemist Arasemis, this secret group hopes to dissolve the kingdom using the arcane methods of the ancient tribe the Naren-Dra. Fuchs’ epic fantasy is a marathon of political maneuvers packed with assassins, deadly concoctions, and saber-rattling nation states. His penchant for using names like Rachard and Meriam summons a parallel medieval Europe. Readers, even fans of Game of Thrones, might gape at the volume of characters and territories in rotation. The focus inevitably falls on a handful of players, and the narrative thrill comes from the carefully plotted metamorphosis, for example, of young Arthan Valient as he goes from nobleman’s son to instrumental hero. With both feet primarily in the human realm, the author delivers his most fantastical creation: the Naren-Dra culture. The mountain natives use masks of “aglanrit wood…lined with gray gill ferns” to protect against the “alchemical mixtures” with which they dispatch their enemies. By the end of this series opener, the principal cast has undergone dramatic changes in anticipation of wider adventures.
A crowded but visceral epic fantasy with plenty of political intrigue.