Fantasy debut from New Yorker Manieri, previously published in the U.K.
A generation ago, the Norlanders came in their ships to attack Shadar, a peaceful city lodged between the desert and the sea. The Shadari ashas, or wizard-priests, all jumped into the sea (having, we later learn, taken a drug that enabled them to see the future), leaving the city all but defenseless. The Norlanders, or Dead Ones—they’re telepathic among themselves, have frigid blue blood and sunlight is lethal to them—enslaved the survivors. The Norlanders set the Shadari to toil in the mines for the metal which, smelted and tempered with Norlander blood, imbues weapons forged from it with magic powers. Now, the Norlander governor lies dying. Of his three warrior children, ice-maiden Frea nurses ambitions to return to Norland and conquer it; Isa yearns to challenge Frea and win the right to name her sword; and Eofar has fallen in love with a Shadari, Harotha, and impregnated her, though to protect the baby, Harotha claims the father is Daryan, the Shadari daimon or king. Underground leader Faroth, Harotha’s twin brother, sees opportunity in the Norlander’s internecine struggles and negotiates with the Mongrel, a mysterious and reputedly unbeatable mercenary warrior, to lead a rebellion. Dramash, Faroth’s young son, has the magic powers of an asha, and Jachad, king of the desert-dwelling Nomas, can summon flames. The stage is set, then, for a fine brouhaha. There’s plenty of action, most of it physically improbable, computer-game style. As for the characters, apart from their confusingly similar names, you’ll rarely encounter a more conflicted, emotive, impulsive, secretive, garrulous bunch whose favorite phrase seems to be “No, wait.”
Flawed and overinvolved, but highly imaginative; an encouraging foundation on which to build future efforts.