This third installment of a series sees the fire-wielding Vatra clan one step closer to escaping its desert prison.
One thousand years ago, three elemental daeva clans—the Danai, the Valkirin, and the Marakai—imprisoned a fourth group, the Vatras, in a desert called the Kiln. Now, a fire-wielding Vatra named Nicodemus has escaped. He seeks beings known as talismans, who can break the storms that enclose the Kiln. Enter half-daeva Nazafareen; her lover, Darius; and the band of heroes aboard the ship Chione. They sail the Austral Ocean with Capt. Mafuone in search of Sakhet-ra-katme, one of the original talismans who sealed the Vatras. Hopefully, the long-lived Sakhet can point Nazafareen toward the child she hid years ago, 12-year-old Mebetimmunedjem. On the ship Asperta, Meb “the Mouse” is a Marakai who can’t manipulate water like the rest of the seafaring daevas. She’s a member of the crew, under Capt. Kasaika, with no idea of the forces converging on her. Meanwhile, in Persian Samarqand, Javid has become a successful delivery pilot for the merchant Izad Asabana. One of their best customers is Prince Shahak, who’s addicted to the magical rush of spell dust. And at Val Moraine, Victor Dessarian punishes his son Galen with the task of tunneling through the ice wall surrounding a holdfast. In this latest volume in The Fourth Talisman fantasy series, Ross (Solis, 2018, etc.) keeps all of her narrative plates spinning at top speed. While dialogue drives her plots, lyrical filigree exalts the whole, as in the line “One by one, the stars winked out, as if devoured by some slouching celestial beast.” And though a vast war threatens her alternate ancient Persia, the author once more proves the master of small character moments, as when Nazafareen feels that “something shifted in her heart” after seeing an Aurora in the night sky “bleeding pure light.” Cast members from Solis return in frightening ways, including Apollonian acolyte Thena, whose mind goes blank as she murders someone. By the end, Ross has primed audiences for an epic conclusion.
High fantasy marked by restraint, subtlety, and deep character maneuvering.