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Dark, bloody fantasy: first of a series from video game designer Scull.

Five hundred years ago, the world’s greatest wizards assaulted heaven and, after terrible battles, killed the gods. The few surviving wizards styled themselves Magelords and divided up the world. Unfortunately, when the gods died, so did the magic, and now the only source left is their slowly decaying corpses, which the Magelords fight among themselves to control. Magelord Salazar and his magically enhanced Augmentors rule Dorminia with iron fists, with most ordinary people living in conditions of appalling neglect. Nevertheless, revolution simmers below the surface. Rich merchant’s son Garrett has built a group known as the Shards, among them Davarus Cole, a vainglorious and foolhardy but goodhearted young man whose father gave him a magical dagger capable of killing a Magelord. Also drawn into the Shards’ affairs will be old, weary barbarian swordsman Brodar Kayne and his surly axe-warrior sidekick Jerek; Eremul the Halfmage, once apprenticed to Salazar before the Magelord ordered his legs cut off; and Eremul’s peculiarly competent servant Isaac. When the Shards learn that the White Lady, Magelord of the beautiful City Of Spires, plans to invade Dorminia, they decide to assist her by striking at Salazar’s sources of magic. Of course, nothing is as it seems. There are further complications, both here and as foundations for future installments. The characters begin as boilerplate but develop satisfyingly as the plot widens, deepens and twists. And the backdrop shows Scull’s first-rate worldbuilding skills even if few of the elements here demonstrate any remarkable originality. As the outline and title suggest, the tone is predominantly grim and exceedingly dark, illuminated with flashes of wit and bleak humor.

A noteworthy and gripping debut that promises to develop into an altogether superior series—one well-worth getting hooked on at the outset.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-425-26484-3
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: ROC/Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2013


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