This fantasy debut tells the story of a mercenary who’s forced from retirement by an evil horde, warlike kingdoms, and an ancient prophecy.
In the world of Wrae-Kronn, a warrior named Alaezdar has outrun his violent past and settled in Valeland. For nearly a year, he’s worked the farm of Tharn, the village’s founder. Although he’s still considered an outsider, Alaezdar is acquainted with Morlonn the Hunter, and Aaelie, the washerwoman’s daughter. He lives in fear, however, that members of Rager’s House of Renegades—his former employers—will track him down and exact vengeance for his murder of the villainous Red Blade. Also problematic is the nearby Kingdom of Triel, for which Tharn has agreed to mine iron ore that’s used to produce toxic “Goblin Touched” steel. When Ambassador Krostos demands higher productivity from the village, Tharn agrees. But to assure production, the ambassador wants to take a hostage who would live in Triel—specifically, the lovely Aaelie. Meanwhile, the prophecy of Dar Drannon, a godlike, elven being who was wounded by a fallen star, weighs heavily upon the land; Tharn believes that Dar “is in human form, but he doesn’t know who he is yet and he has not been awakened.” In this start of a new series, author McDaniel lays strong groundwork, filled with rousing concepts, such as Alaezdar’s magical sword, Bloodseeker, which can heal the hero’s wounds, and the witch Fyaa, who arrived in Wrae-Kronn via a magical gate at the supposedly defunct elven tower, Aaestfallia Keep. The dynamic between Aaelie and Rivlok, a young man who loves her dearly, adds to the tension after she confesses that Alaezdar “brings a newness, and change, and possibly adventure” to their cloistered lives. McDaniel does enjoy telegraphing plot maneuvers, as when Gartan the Dark of the Watchers Guild warns, “The 89th Bloody Fang Goblin tribe has called upon their dark god,” which will leave readers less than surprised at a later development. However, solid pacing, consistently fun inventions, and the hero’s desire to resist the “prophecy game” result in an entertaining journey.
A somewhat predictable but still inventive fantasy-series opener.