A complex fantasy novel combines a young man’s quest, a noblewoman’s nightmare, and a long-slumbering demon.
Ruled by the brutal Baron Eon, Barola is just one of the many unpleasant provinces in the land of Gol (“Barola was corrupt—a wormrotten apple—and the other provinces rumoured to be worse.”) The baron arranges a marriage of political importance for his daughter to Varentin Gallante (“a pompous turd,” according to the baron’s eldest son, Rosco), but the wedding will only take place if it is forced. The baron’s daughter Lissane is not interested in Varentin. She has instead been seen in town with Erun, a blacksmith’s son and young man who delves into poetry and “witty songs.” Though the two hope to one day escape their treacherous conditions, their plans are vague and result in a scene of torture and combat, and Erun is badly wounded. Far away, a figure named Ozmandeus “had just achieved the impossible. He had captured the essence of the Demon, Ashmali.” Surely such a feat spells trouble, but to what extent? Progressing with the aid of magical figures, folklore-worthy locations, and plenty of violence (“bright blood spilled and congealed on the bearskin rugs”), the story incorporates many well-known fantasy tropes. Weaving the storylines with capable skill, Webb (Haven, 2015, etc.) supplies many intriguing impediments, from a cunning, albeit entrapped, “Water Element” called Aqueous to a predictably sinister figure named Black Torlock. Readers will be eager to see just when, and how, it will all come together. Descriptions lean toward the obvious (“Erun felt a string of emotions wash through him: sadness, anger, excitement and fear, were but a few”), a predilection that increases the page count but does little for the content. Nevertheless, readers unperturbed by the writing style will find a multifaceted, though manageable narrative.
An appealing tale set in an enchanted realm offers blunt prose and vivid characters in constant motion.