This novel pits a deity’s chosen warrior against a sorcerer and his evil forces.
On Erathe, 17-year-old Evliit of Arentis has arrived in the gloomy town of Harot. In an alley by the Marker tavern, he sees a serving girl suffering the cold and muck. He befriends the young woman, Jenna, and decides to rescue her from further on-the-job abuse. He promises to venture into the Black Mountains and return with Soru, a medicinal plant of the utmost value. Selling Soru will get them shelter and food. But in the mountains, Evliit falls and shatters his limbs. He meets the angelic Aleris, leader of the Bhre-Nora, followed by the Creator. The Creator “calls upon” him “to watch over the people of Erathe as we have watched over you.” Evliit wakes up in the mountains healed of his injuries as well as gifted with the Sword of the Watch and a horse he names Angwen. But he returns to find Harot ransacked and numerous denizens murdered, Jenna included. This is the work of Broeden, a sorcerer who covets the Sword of the Watch and is willing to use his inhuman army to gain its power. Montgomery’s (The Fall of Daoradh, 2007, etc.) refreshingly svelte epic fantasy keeps a taut emotional thread running through events, never juggling too many races, places, or magical items. The unexpected friendships that occur among Evliit, the monk Ebert, and the evil sorceress Rendaya hinge on human moments and make the ghoulish action more savory (“Tentacles burst forth from the corpses and began stringing together a horrific mass of rotting flesh”). In this first installment of a series, the author doesn’t rush his hero’s time spent at the Monastery of Ardidhus because “you shouldn’t underestimate what the quiet mind can conjure.” The challenge of keeping faith during wretched times is embodied by the line “If the Creator was…omnipotent, why then did Broeden continue to prevail at the expense of all these innocents?” Moody, uncredited black-and-white illustrations appear throughout.
A tight series opener that should whet the palate of any fantasy fan.