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by J.V. Jones

Pub Date: March 30th, 1999
ISBN: 0-446-52414-X

New doorstopper fantasy (and first of a trilogy entitled Sword of Shadows) set in the same world as Jones’s Book of Words trilogy, but otherwise unconnected. Frigid winter grips the Northern Territories. Ambitious, malignant Penthero Iss, Surlord of Mask Fortress, possesses a broken, captive sorcerer whom he tortures to obtain magical power. To weaken and distract the barbarian warriors of the Clanholds, he’s sent his agent, the sorcerer Sarga Veys, to set clan against clan and brother against brother. And his adoptive daughter, Ash March, is terrified of him: she realizes she’s being raised for some dreadful purpose. As a result of Sarga Veys’s maneuvers, young Raif Sevrance is outcast from Clan Blackhail; his father, the clan chief, lies dead, while the new chief, the treacherous Mace Blackhail, commits his fellow-clansmen to slaughtering women and children. And poor Ash, driven almost mad by the terrible, seductive voices that plunder her spirit through her dreams, steels herself to run away. Luckily, Raif and his uncle, Angus Lok, happen by. Angus, a member of the good-magic Phage, at once recognizes Ash’s innate magic powers and fights Iss’s men to prevent her recapture, while Raif’s sorcerous Old Blood taint enables him to tap into Ash’s tormented visions. Helped by the Sull (elves, sort of), they learn that Ash is a Reach: she has the power to break into the Blind, the underworld where ancient, evil sorcerers are confined, and release them into the world. But even if Ash can resist their dreadful siren voices, the magic growing within will kill her—unless she can reach the remote Cavern of Black Ice and discharge the magic energies. Imaginative and vivid, with a showdown that, after 752 well-padded, sometimes unpleasantly sadistic pages, falls flat. Still, Jones (The Barbed Coil, 1997, etc.) has talent, and it shows.