An orphaned girl joins a male-only magical sect in Patrick’s fantasy novel.
Twelve-year-old Arien has grown up in a small village orphanage. She knows nothing of a Seer’s prophecy when she was born, which foretold the end of her father’s bloodline and prompted her mother to spirit her away. Arien does know that she’s different from other kids, as she hears thoughts and can sense other people’s emotions. When Master Petro of the Brotherhood of Power offers to train her in the use of her abilities, she sees a chance to fit in, at last, and gain a surrogate family. But the Brotherhood is an order that’s made up of only boys and men. Even after Petro successfully argues for her inclusion, he and Arien must live apart from the other members of the group. Seven years go by, and Arien undergoes the trial to become a “Brother.” She later accompanies Petro to the court of King Mendel of Hamlin, where Petro is to be Mendel’s adviser; meanwhile, Arien is sent on a covert diplomatic mission. Will she succeed in ferreting out hostile intentions in the neighboring kingdom, or will her past catch up with her and bring ruin upon two lands? Patrick writes in a close third-person perspective involving many characters, offering a multifaceted but homogeneous narrative voice. The story moves slowly at first, avoiding contrived peril and instead slowly leading readers toward the larger, inescapable danger noted in the prologue. Arien and company will be recognizable types for fans of the genre, and many plot points have a similarly comfortable familiarity. Still, Patrick sometimes subverts genre tropes by, for example, forgoing an expected betrayal. These subversions are subtle but pleasing elements, as is the fact that the book is a stand-alone story instead of the start of a series. The author also demonstrates a good measure of restraint regarding sex and violence, presenting readers with a wholesome alternative to George R.R. Martin and other dark-fantasy writers.
An agreeable, slow-burning high-fantasy tale.