From the author of The Golden Key (with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson, p. 1108), the first entry in a projected fantasy series. In a Europe-flavored fantasy world, King Henry of Wendar is beset by two powerful enemies: the invading nonhuman Eika and their huge, terrible dogs; and by his half-sister Sabella of Varre, who denies Henry's right to name as his heir his bastard son Sanglant. Young, parentless Alain, seemingly destined for the church, is granted a vision of the Lady of Battles and eventually attaches himself to Count Lavastine--who also keeps large, vicious dogs that, other than the Count himself, only Alain can control. At this point, however, Lavastine, a neutral in the struggle for power, is ensorcelled by Sabella's allies and marches to war against Henry. Meanwhile, Liath, having spent most of her young life with her beloved Da fleeing unknown enemies, is enslaved by churchman Hugh when Da is murdered, leaving Liath unable to pay his debuts. Hugh hopes to grab the book of magic that Da left Liath, but just in time she's recruited by Wolfhere of the King's Eagles. Wolfhere knew Da and suspects Liath has magic abilities; both Alain and Liath will play important parts in the showdown between Sabella and Henry. A creditably self-contained and appealing, modestly engrossing opener, though without much originality or bite.