Millar’s debut offers a light, adventurous fantasy with a few imaginative twists.
The novel tells the story of war arriving in the peace-loving Kingdom of Bridd, also known as the Bird Kingdom; the conflict brings with it questions of sacrifice, trust and self-defense versus violent warfare. When news of a threat to Bridd’s borders reaches King Lade-Gleal, he remembers a secret passed down to him by his father, who told him that the kingdom was magically protected from invasion. The protection comes with a price, however: Only the king, his heir, Gleal, and First Councillor Brohan may know the secret. In order to secure the kingdom against destruction, they must find the Lost Heirs of the True Bird King and the magical talismans their ancestors once carried. If they don’t, the ruthless Emperor Finup may conquer the Kingdom of Bridd, because although its people are willing to defend their homes, they’re certainly no army. King Lade-Gleal dispatches Gleal and Brohan on a quest that eventually exacts a dreadful price. The author puts an interesting spin on the save-the-kingdom plot, and the theme of sacrifice woven throughout this tale is perhaps its strongest element. The gravity of the situation, and the cost of saving the kingdom, weighs on King Lade-Gleal, and the best character moments come when he struggles to do right by his people, even as he chafes at the restrictions placed upon him. Unfortunately, the somewhat strict focus on the king leaves many other characters less developed. In addition, the novel’s chronology sometimes gets a bit confused by the book’s framing device, which is only fully revealed in the final chapter.
An often engaging fantasy novel of the virtuous and villainous.