Dwarves band together with humans and elves to stop an evil sorcerer involved in massacring kingdoms and stealing souls in this fantasy.
Bran, like most dwarves, doesn’t think highly of humans. Seeing many in the human town, Kopa, Bran and her Uncle Daga consider them weak. Children, for one, don’t reach maturity until age 20, whereas Bran, a mere 7, is on the cusp of adulthood. So it’s a surprise when Bran, while learning to forge horseshoes, bonds with the human farrier’s 14-year-old son, Vilmar. Their friendship grows as Vilmar teaches Bran to ride horses, but destiny soon pulls them apart. With war on the horizon, Bran joins the Yazu, a secret society of warriors trained to protect dwarves. Vilmar, gifted with magic from a unicorn he once helped, has the capacity to become a powerful green wizard who can access the five elements for attack or defense. Meanwhile, enchanter Savas-Zev, sporting an inexplicable contempt for dwarves, is killing all races and infecting dwarves in particular with a fatal pox. Bran, Vilmar, and others lose loved ones at the hands of the murderous Savas-Zev, but it gets worse: the wizard locks restless souls in hundreds of crystal balls called soul cages. A potentially lethal confrontation between the Yazu and Savas-Zev seems inevitable. Recognizable mystical creatures populate the novel, from elves, including Yazu ally Iyorath, to villainous orcs, goblins, and trolls. McLaughlin (Whispers of Life, 2014, etc.) adds refreshing touches, like the Dahla horse Daga gives his niece—a small wooden steed that can manifest into whatever real one Bran imagines. Descriptive passages augment the story, especially Vilmar training with the elements, buried in the earth or enveloped by fire. Plus there’s a character whose eventual appearance is not just unsettling but likewise sets the stage for a sequel. The narrative only falters with notable inconsistencies, primarily surrounding the Yazu. For example, although the Yazu’s a group of “dwarf women warriors,” it’s clear that there are both male, like Captain Garn-Ithel, and non-dwarf members. Similarly, an implication that men will die by simply uttering “Yazu” proves untrue when numerous males repeatedly say it.
While treading familiar terrain, this tale about a league of warriors remains unquestionably appealing, rousing, and worthy of a sequel.