First hardcover appearance for this sword and sorcery series (Oath of Swords) by Weber (In Enemy Hands, 1997). On Norfressa, both good and evil deities manifest themselves in the flesh and like to meddle in human affairs. Bahzell Bahnakson, a hradani (a huge barbarian warrior with “foxlike” ears), is a chosen champion of the (good) war god Tomanak. He and his sidekick Brandark arrive in the city Belhaden as guests of the Order of Tomanak. Talented spoiled-brat Vaijohn, appalled to learn that a hradani calls himself Tomanak’s champion, challenges Bahzell. Bahzell drubs Vaijohn; the latter learns his lesson and becomes Bahzell’s squire. Bahzell also becomes friends with Kaeritha, the only female champion of Tomanak. They all proceed to Axe Hallow, the capital of the Axeman Empire, and meet the wild wizard Wencit of Rum. It emerges that the evil god Sharna is making trouble in Navahk, part of the hradani homeland, so they head there. On the road they’re attacked by warriors in the pay of the dark god. At Dwarvenhame, the dwarf Kilthan pledges his support. Bahzell and Vaijohn battle a centipede-demon summoned by Sharna’s priest, after which Tomanak materializes and promotes Vaijohn to champion, too. Finally, there’s a skirmish with Sothoii fighters caused by a misunderstanding—ended when Wencit shows up to straighten things out. Long on chat and backdrop detail, short on action and plot, padded with idiotic badinage—not to mention the lead character’s embarrassing stage-Irish accent: numbing and wearisome.