Epic fantasy from debut author Hall about a prince’s quest and the voracious powers against him.
Prince Alarik, firstborn son of King Humbert, finds himself nervous when the city of Rivia is under siege. Though the granite walls are 60 feet high, a powerful force is attacking the Kerg, a civilized but battle-ready people who worship Tor, the god of war. As hordes of “thralls”—zombielike creatures with “no regard for human life”—attack the castle, the terror of war arrives. Though the young prince has trained for such events all his life, he finds the blood and gore “unsettling.” Nothing, however, can prepare him for the figure behind the attack. The “lich,” “an ancient sorcerer of terrible power,” seeks to avenge wrongs against his ancestors, with an assortment of terrifying magic at his disposal. As Rivia falls, King Humbert explains to his son that his background is more complex than he imagined. The truth involves an amulet and information about Alarik’s mother. After the king decrees that Alarik must escape the city with a small band of guards, the stage is set for an epic journey that will decide much more than Alarik’s fate. With a large cast of characters, various maps, and “Units of Weight and Measure”—e.g., “Finger: 1 inch”—the unabashedly dense story is full of magic, action, and details that sometimes prove tedious: “Alarik meditated and focused on becoming one with his spirit. After a time he couldn’t move a muscle. And then he floated up out of his body. At first he spun in a slow circle without direction, but he sharpened his mental focus and gained control of his ghost-like form. He shot straight up through the tent and out into the night. His eyes still worked and he saw everything with crystal clarity.” The novel is its best when exploring its darker creations, such as the Blood Druid Luan, who, though he and his kind perform human sacrifices, sees such an act as necessary and bereft of evil: “When someone dies they believe he’s reborn.”
Fans of complicated fantasy will enjoy the journey.