Schonberger (The First Harmony, 2010) returns to the fantasy realm with a warrior who battles mystic creatures as he searches unknown parts of the world.
The people of Fortress City have hidden themselves from the world of Draconia. But Bladeborn, an orphan living as a thieving urchin, finds his means of escape with Nightslayer, the Sword of the Ancients; this powerful weapon can unlock the gates of the city. Within Draconia’s sprawling mass live many creatures with a common enemy: the Rhinolon, vicious, larger-than-human beasts that sport horned snouts. Bladeborn’s journey takes him to the Six Realms, where he falls in love with a queen and wages war against the Rhinolon. But what of the land on the other side of Draconia, where the sun shines yellow instead of red? Is this Bladeborn’s place of origin, as he’s been told? Will he find more humans there? Schonberger’s novel is expansive: Readers follow Bladeborn as he grows from a young child saved from a ritual sacrifice into a skilled swordsman capable of magic. His initial goal is freedom; once he’s achieved this outside of Fortress City, his purpose becomes less clear. The story seems to work best if considered as a series of vignettes: traveling the unknown territory; helping the local Drommu revolt against the Rhinolon; leading humans in battles as a general. The author fittingly keeps the protagonist in a constant state of peril, and the book nimbly delivers a motley assortment of creatures—ogres, elves, demons, serpents, a monster that resembles a spider, and beasts with tentacles, aptly named “tentaslimes.” At times, the dialogue slips into the contemporary, with lines like “don’t look me up” and a snide reference to “that marriage stuff,” but the otherwise sober narrative is effectively suitable in tone for a fantasy. The wide-open ending may leave readers disappointed that they never encounter the Lizardmen, but there’s plenty of room for a second book.
Fantasy readers will find much to enjoy.