Second in the Hythrun Chronicles (Medalon, p. 206), a fantasy about the fate of nations hanging on the doings of one R’Shiel, a young woman with great magical powers.
Things open with R’Shiel dangerously wounded in the battle that concluded the previous volume. She’s at Sanctuary, the home of the magical race that she’s half-descended from. Her half-brother Tarja is at a fort in the north of their native kingdom, Medalon, awaiting an anticipated attack from Karien, a northern kingdom intent on spreading its monotheistic religion. And King Hablet of the decadent southern kingdom of Fardohnya has sent Princess Adrina, his shrewish eldest daughter, to marry the Karien heir, the puritanical prince Cratyn. The two have so little in common that it’s almost a given that their marriage will fall apart quickly and disastrously. From this beginning, Fallon builds a fast-moving tale full of Machiavellian schemes, extreme character conflict, sudden reverses of fortune, and capricious interventions of gods whose power waxes and wanes in proportion to the number of their human followers. Fallon takes the theory of character abuse about as far as it can go, with R’Shiel once again captured and left in the hands of her most bitter enemy. Meanwhile, Adrina lords it over Cratyn until he suddenly turns the tables, revealing himself to be far more dangerous than she realized. Tarja, along with the dashing southern warlord Damin, does his best to prepare for the Karien assault they know is coming—until a far-too-easy victory is followed by a shocking betrayal. Fallon orchestrates all this with a smooth sense of dialogue and a sure feeling for pace—and she has the ability to juxtapose the comic and the dramatic without undercutting either.
A well-executed “popcorn” fantasy, with complex characters and entertaining style.