In this fantasy, humanity has used technology to defeat several magical races, but total victory is not yet secure.
In the city of Silverfell, a man called Dryden visits the Silver Tongue tavern. There, beautiful elf women—and some men—sell their bodies alongside mugs of ale. Such is their station after humanity used guns and mechanical might to defeat elves, orcs, and goblins almost a century ago in the Great War. Dryden meets two elf women, Saya and Astanava, while drinking. As he becomes hopelessly smitten with Astanava, he witnesses Earl Edard Kenton and his knights enter the tavern and harass Saya. Dryden’s secret—that he’s a Dartmoth prince traveling incognito—could halt the situation if asserted publicly. Instead, he attempts fisticuffs, which ends with him and Astanava landing in jail and Saya getting raped. Meanwhile, in the town of Osh, Fane Ganbaatar is an orc sheriff. Osh hosts the Book of Destiny in the temple complex of Issik Kul. The Book contains “a running list, thousands of pages long, of the...names of every person that would ever see the book, in chronological order.” One day, representatives of King Broderick Dartmoth come to inspect the Book. The endgame of Cole Wynton and his men is to confiscate and/or destroy all magical artifacts and weapons in Osh. Fane hopes to keep his enchanted ax a secret for as long as possible. And in the royal capital of Syerfordge, the king and his council plan to quell orc violence to the south once and for all—by firebombing the city of Angkor-Toll.
In this dark series launch, Emrey (Millennium Stone, 2015, etc.) chooses a fertile time period, post-Great War, for the setting of his epic of heroism and race relations. As a royal, Dryden has access to era-specific technology, like a single-prop fighter plane and a Motor K automobile. He also has the privilege of springing himself from jail whereas the marginalized Astanava ends up at the mercy of Ser Dex Morton, a licentious prison warden. The author maximizes the scope of his narrative by having chapters follow Dryden, Astanava, and Fane down personalized alleys that converge after the stakes have risen. A humiliating flogging leads to Astanava’s accessing latent powers that Lt. Shpava, leader of an elf rebellion, deems invaluable. Angkor-Toll, once a hopeful city but now a ghetto, is filled with the downtrodden of every race. Blue and red fire dust, stand-ins for heroin and crack, have warped orc society and given King Broderick and his militant brother, Sawyer, their excuse for more war. Among the royal siblings, including Liliana, with whom Dryden is closest, only the globe-trotting prince argues that “dust is the problem,” not those addicted to it. Astanava’s transformation into a more empowered, if ghoulish, character is thrilling to behold. Fane and Dryden develop along entertaining, if slightly more predictable routes. Emrey’s greatest success lies in maintaining a shared spotlight for all three of his protagonists. On the verge of a second Great War, each character is poised to drive the sequel toward steeper dramatic heights.
A remarkable fantasy series opener built on bold characters and startling real-world parallels.