In the fantasy kingdom of Crotheny, set in a world that’s just too complicated and overpoliticized to describe—though it does appear to exist in some vaguely post-apocalyptic setting, what with much of the land being referred to as “Virgenya”—trouble is brewing at the start of a simply smashing new four-part series from Keyes (the Age of Unreason tetralogy: The Shadows of God, 2001, etc.). Deep in the past, humans freed themselves from a race of enslaving monsters, but in the process they unleashed powerful dark forces that only now look to be returning to the light of day. The weakling ruler of Crotheny hears of threats against his queen and daughter, a royal forest ranger raised by a race of witch-like beings called the Sefry, comes across evidence that the dread Briar King has risen from his slumber; an intellectual discovers horrible secrets in newly translated ancient scrolls; and the king’s wild daughter puts herself in more danger than she can imagine. It takes a long time for all of the story’s divergent plot threads even to be able to see each other across the vast acres of Keyes’s prose, but once they start to bind together, about halfway through, the tale shifts from run-of-the-mill fantasy to a headlong plunge into danger and despair. The dialogue, of course, can tend toward the overblown and ridiculous, and it might have been nice of Keyes to include just a few more characters not of gentle birth. But in a genre so overburdened with repetitive swords-and-sorcery hooey, Keyes takes all the genre’s conventions and, while never overstepping their boundaries, breathes new life into them.
Action-packed fantasy rife with humor and sensuality: introduces an epic new series sure to hook readers by the wagonful.