Cox (Zenith’s Spy, 2014) returns to the world of noble Zenith Lord and the evil Dark’s Source in this epic fantasy that begins with a murder.
Jarod Greatstone, the Zenith Lord, has a good life: not only is he lord of the Seven Realms, he’s also surrounded by friends and happily married, with his first child on the way. But when his wife, Zenith Lady Maress, is poisoned and dies—though their child is safely born—Jarod comes to realize that both ordinary human enemies and the dark spirits scheme against him. Jarod and his friends—the guardsman, the spymaster, etc.—track down the source of this evil, which readers already know from the first chapter: High Lord Mountglen opposes Jarod, motivated both by his greed and by the dark spirit–master Shadure. Meanwhile, Shadure and the other evil spirits of Dark’s Source have their own reasons for destroying the Greatstone family—especially since the newborn Greatstone may play an important part in the epic battle. This epic battle of good vs. evil is the major connective tissue between this sequel and Zenith’s Spy: characters are largely new, so first-time readers will find this volume accessible without having read the first. Unfortunately, while this stark good-vs.-evil fantasy can be thrilling, the evil never quite seems threatening, robbing the story of much of its suspense or interest. While we see the good characters collect their forces and figure out who the culprits are, the few evil characters don’t do much at all. The mystery of the Zenith Lady’s poisoning leads to some compelling scenes—e.g., the guardsman testing her food—but since this isn’t a mystery to readers (and not a mystery long for Jarod, who’s told all about Mountglen’s sinister history), the storyline doesn’t engage much interest. The writing is generally pleasant, though readers may balk at the occasionally awkward line: “Enmity bathed both the tones of Shadure’s words in Mountglen’s mind and the sound that eerily floated to his ears.”
Epic fantasy that struggles to grab the reader.