Artemian Sills, an aging coastal-city merchantman and one-time war hero, finds himself in the fight of his life (again) when evil threatens both human and dwarf races.
Bilicic’s (Pilgrimage of the Dead, 2014, etc.) heroic fantasy takes place within the fabric of his other Unlife Legend sagas. Retired military hero Artemian, a prosperous timber merchant, helped save the vital port city of Cass Vale many years ago in his naval service to the Empire. Now, he’s too preoccupied with business deals with dwarves and with caring for his dying wife to notice corruption creeping into his society, signified by the arrival of the beautiful and bellicose Asha, a captain in Staul Feleeris, an elite squad of elven troubleshooters. Asha singles out Artemian—she knows the well-preserved senior citizen is secretly one-quarter elfblood—as a sparring partner. The seemingly innocent (if painful) development puts the retiring businessman at the center of a deadly conspiracy by local ruling elites, one of whom sold himself to a dark god in exchange for demonic powers. Soon, Cass Vale is crawling with supernatural assassins, and Artemian fights desperately to save his family and himself (and, sometimes, the deadly Asha) from a vicious, malevolent foe. Lively, well-textured description keeps this epic galloping along. In the generally youth-oriented genre, it’s a bit refreshing to have the first-person narrator as an older man, burdened with his own aches and pains, the disposition of his finances, and the safety of his daughter and son-in-law—don’t forget, though, that Artemian can battle like Conan when the need arises. Like a bloodied video game character, he never seems far away from a healing priest or a fortuitous potion. Bilicic also attempts to flesh out the economy, technology and religions of his mythic realm, all to good effect. Fortunately, the book can be enjoyed just as much as a stand-alone as a part of the larger tapestry.
Robust mythic adventure with an AARP-level hero.