The launching of an interminable fantasy series. Llewelyn, a wizardly priest of Hecate, flees into the north, where the magical ambiance begins slowly to kill him. Soon he’s caught by Duke Walworth, who accuses him of treason and murder; Walworth prepares a magical draught to keep Llewelyn alive while he confesses. The reset is told in flashback. As a boy, Llewelyn lives next door to eccentric old woman Grana, who enjoys his company as his own parents do not. Considered incapable of real magic, Grana teaches Llewelyn odd snatches of things; then, at age 90, she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a magical child, Lord Cathe, before expiring. Llewelyn’s accepted as an apprentice wizard, but, strangely, the students are taught little or nothing; instead, Master Grendel imposes upon them a series of bans preventing their using magic in almost every situation. Much later, after years of crop failure and ill luck, and a burgeoning civil war, King Sevalas decides to sacrifice Cathe, and somehow Llewelyn gets involved in a plot to rescue him. The plotters/revolutionaries include Walworth and the wizard Mirand, who teaches Llewelyn real magic. In addition to a magical key, Llewelyn somehow acquires a magic wand that burns him when he picks it up. Grendel and associates come to recover the key; plots and revolutions swirl, growing ever more murky.
Inventive, though sometimes outright unpleasant, with a rich, textured backdrop and overcomplicated, hard-to-follow political convolutions. With a series like this, either you settle in for the duration, or you don’t.