Threatened by sinister mages, magic-wielding nations forge a delicate truce in this fantasy novel.
Sir Tristan Stryfe is a former Templar from the kingdom of Altair. The adopted son of Baron Stryfe, he continues to carry out acts of heroism alongside his adoptive brother, Torran, and their companions in arms Bors, Drew, and Lady Kylie Talmarian. In the nation of Dalmorithia, where magic is believed to offend the deities of the Amaranthine realm, the heroes secure a village that’s been attacked by brigands. After saving a young girl from a sorceress, the adventurers return to Talmarian Manor. They discover that Lady Kirin Talmarian, Kylie’s sister and the noblewoman to whom Tristan is engaged for the sakes of their kingdoms, has been kidnapped. They trace her to a cavern that hides an alchemical laboratory. Tristan rescues Kirin but now realizes that rogue mages seek to imbue the Amaranthine Blessing (the ability to use magic) on those without it. Can the scheme have anything to do with Tristan’s former lover, the sorceress Moira, whom he left after she began using magic derived from enslaved spirits? In this series opener, Bullen (Blood in the Rain, 2017, etc.) presents a rapid-fire sequence of vignettes that recall such role-playing video games as “Final Fantasy.” Tristan and company battle monsters like ghouls and cockatrices, which should please action junkies. More intriguing is the blonde woman in Tristan’s dreams. She calls him “Alaric” and dwells in a land with “trees of polished granite bearing fruit the color of amber and rivers that flowed of pure crystal into deltas that reached into the sky.” For all of the author’s reliance on quests to pump the plot forward, there’s an element of self-aware humor in lines like “Why is it always a crypt where the sorceresses get lost?” And while the plot wanders a bit, Tristan’s sense of justice sharpens toward the end when he asks, “Why are there still provinces that allow people to drag others into the streets, slit their throats, and get away with it?”
A colorful, if familiar, series opener with plenty of heroic deeds and a slow-developing central conflict.