In this fantasy debut, four individuals visit a war-torn realm full of monsters and magic, seeking to fulfill an ancient prophecy.
One night, actor Adem Highlander suffers quite the nightmare. In it, he faces a tunnel of flames, and a raven-haired beauty tells him that he is a Son of Odin. Adem connects the experience with another he had years ago at a place called Bright, where he and his friends Carl Wilder and William “Wil” Martyr became Witnesses to the reality of ghosts (Adem learned that “ghosts were not imagined, not a mythology. Not some false religious fantasy cooked up to inspire hope or fear in the hearts of mankind”). Later, Adem and his agent, Anna, attend the symphony. There, he has a waking vision of a wizard who asks, “What will be the hour of your arrival, Son of Odin?” The next day, Adem, Carl, and Wil meet model Jean Fairsythe at a photo shoot. Then, the foursome is transported to Kismeria, a kingdom at war with the Dark One and his demonic hordes. Orion, King of the Torvellan, informs them that in 1,000 years they are destined to face the Dark One. Until then, they must train and work against the taint—instilled by the ghosts Witnessed at Bright—that threatens to interfere with their use of the Power. In the opening volume of a complex new fantasy series, Hammer offers readers lavish battles, dizzying amounts of gore, and a system of magical patrons called Battle Angels that fans of the Final Fantasy video games should enjoy. Hammer’s prose is often dense with imagery, as when “Anna, the crew,” and “the bushland were all swallowed by a vortex of light and shadows,” and “the light exploded into tiny filaments of burning gold and white energies.” The battles, during which the Sons of Odin—and Jean, the Daughter of Thor—summon superpowered guardians, are splatterfests (demons are blasted “into dust and smoke, torn flesh and large spurts of dark blood”). Quiet moments involve Adem’s courting of Jean, who believes that love “writes itself upon our every fibre.” Christianity also plays a role, as Carl attempts to convert Kismerian warriors and chides Adem against taking innocent lives. Overall, the action is busier than the plot is satisfying.
A marathon of fantasy gore and slow-building characterizations in a land confronting demons.