A new fantasy series kicks off with a coming-of-age yarn, from the popular author of Red Country (2012, etc.).
Among the royalty of Gettland, only strong, fearless, cold-eyed warriors have value. So Prince Yarvi, born with a withered hand, had only one option: to train as a minister (counselor). After years studying under Mother Gundring—luckily, he’s a more-than-capable apprentice—Yarvi is ready to take the ministry’s test when news arrives that his father and elder brother have been treacherously murdered by neighboring rival King Grom-gil-Gorm. While Yarvi’s uncle Odem offers sad encouragement, his mother, Laithlin, master of the treasury and expert business negotiator, remains her usual supercilious self. With no alternative, Yarvi must take the Black Chair and swear an oath to avenge his father’s death. So, donning unfamiliar armor and carrying weapons he can barely lift, he leads a raid against Grom-gil-Gorm—only to be betrayed by those around him. Rather than accept death meekly, he leaps into the Shattered Sea. He survives, only to be captured and sold as a galley slave. Again, he must endure cruelty, enormous hardship and tests of his mettle. Somehow he must use his wits and knowledge to escape enslavement, avenge his father and regain the throne he never expected or wanted. There will be, of course, surprises along the way. To fantasy regulars, this backdrop will sound familiar, with the few embellishments (some elf-ruins and artifacts, an ancient war of the gods) largely irrelevant. The story is well-handled, the characters have personalities, and the plot moves briskly and plausibly, but nothing stands out or grabs the attention; it's somewhat reminiscent of Dave Duncan but without the originality and swagger.
Well-dressed, sure, but underneath, it’s the same old, same old.