The author of an outstanding fantasy debut trilogy (Kushiel’s Avatar, 2003, etc.) kicks off a new adventure set in a Tolkienesque world of contending gods, magic jewels, warring races, dragons, elves, trolls, and what-all.
Strife among two of the godlike Seven Shapers—proud Haomane, the eldest, and his younger brother Satoris—broke the world, so now Haomane and his five siblings reside at one end of the Sundering Ocean, Satoris and the various peoples of the world at the other. Haomane’s unremitting hostility and power have driven Satoris to Darkhaven, where he lurks underground, cursed as the Father of Lies for causing the sundering. During the struggle, the jewel Souma was shattered and Satoris stabbed in the thigh by a dagger-shaped fragment known as the Godslayer. To keep Godslayer safe, Satoris placed it in the marrow-fire deep beneath Darkhaven. Haomane longs to destroy Satoris but, likewise vulnerable to Godslayer, dares not come himself but works through intermediaries instead. To thwart a prophesy predicting his defeat and the reuniting of the world, Satoris sends his immortal general, Tanaros Blacksword, to kidnap Cerelinde of the immortal Ellylon and thus prevent her marriage to the mortal human king, Aracus Altorus. Simultaneously, Haomane’s forces, led by counselor Malthus bearing a powerful fragment of Souma, march towards Darkhaven; among them is a young innocent, the desert-dweller Dani, Bearer of the Water of Life, which, impossibly heavy for anyone but the true bearer to carry, can quench marrow-fire.
Often derivative but pleasingly nuanced, peopled with beings neither wholly good nor irredeemably evil: an impressive curtain-raiser for this projected trilogy, even if it weighs a ton and a half.