In this novel, humanity has survived a global apocalypse on a planet that’s similar to Earth—except for a universal abundance of magic, usable by everyone.
A few generations ago, a disaster known as the Flame suddenly shattered every vestige of civilization on the planet, leaving the survivors utterly bereft of all magic. But after “more than a hundred winters,” a new order has arisen—one in which clans eke out a dangerous new existence, rediscovering skills, using primitive technologies, and fighting over the remnants of the enchanted old world. Through this post-apocalyptic landscape travels the merchant caravan of Nestor Galik and his blonde daughter, Miryam, striving to remain neutral among the tribal groups and barter or trade with all of them. Miryam is shrewd and practical, in a stable relationship with well-built and simple-minded Markus, and fiercely protective of her family. When the caravan runs into stuttering fugitive scholar Bertram, Nestor takes pity on the gawky youth, inciting trouble with the local authorities and launching Miryam on an adventure fraught with danger—including the very real possibility that magic may return, and she may well be part of its fearsome rekindling. Beachem’s (The Hunter and the Marked, 2010, etc.) series opener is quite entertaining. The pacing is swift even though the fantasy novel is long at over 570 pages. The characters are broad but sympathetic, although many are types (Nestor is obviously one, while Miryam’s short-tempered independence is more three-dimensional). But the worldbuilding is somewhat inconsistent, with references to currency in a barter-based economy and to some areas being more civilized than others. And the setting is derivative and breaks little new ground apart from using an ostensibly supernatural cause for the planet’s apocalypse. While the dialogue is serviceable, descriptions are sometimes slightly hazy when not depicting action. But fights and physical feats are lovingly and vividly detailed: “Sand got into everything, squeezing past her tightly-closed eyelids and lips, finding its way up her nose, and scraping at the gaping wound in her arm.”
Solid and diverting fantasy fare.