Beneath the gore of Nolan’s first novel lies a morality play in which a shaman passes along 1,200 years worth of life lessons to his successor through a gruesome fight that only one can survive.
Young Pico becomes an immortal superhuman, and he must choose good or evil as his driving force. This moral choice is also a physical one, because he was made immortal by the magic of the wellsprings. Its power comes with an insatiable addiction that can be fed only by blood and mastered only by supreme mental control. Pico learns the necessary skills through the teachings of his mentor, Kani, first in person, then by written legacy, then through harsh experience on his own. His story is a tour of violence across an Earth-like planet peopled with familiar archetypes—early Native Americans, Celts, Christians—altered to fit that world’s supernatural conditions. Everyone is fodder for the predatory Sachems, an immortal race fueled by the wellsprings. Pico becomes the strongest of them, and must either emulate Kani and control his addiction so he can foster the world or succumb and consume the population. Either way, he must conquer his nemesis, Enos. Once Kani’s friend, Enos chose the dark path while Kani chose the light, and only one of them can remain. Nolan tells their story in a dispassionate narrative with revolving viewpoints. Although engaging, the book comes across like a flat horror novel, because the characters react shallowly, if at all, to continual—and often extreme—brutality. Squeamish readers may need to skim in order to follow the plot without being revolted by some descriptions. And technically picky readers will stumble on consistent misuse of “lie” for “lay” and canoe paddles referred to as oars. Fantasy fans will appreciate the heroic-quest flavor and credible worldbuilding. Anyone romantically inclined, however, will want to hear about the positive-energy wellsprings instead of just the negative ones. Given that the book may launch a series, stories about positive wellsprings may emerge.
One superman’s bloody battles with negative power run amok.