In this debut fantasy thriller, a tightknit community faces militants hunting for a gifted teenager.
Sixteen years ago, Dr. Bill Stedman found a baby boy abandoned in a ravine of the Ojberdine-Haijlan Mountains. Unbeknown to the doctor, the child belonged to the Dajhanin, a nation of peaceful horsemen thriving in the mountain territory. A special gland helps the males of that tribe to read emotions and, if upset, control minds. Now, Bill and his adopted teenage son, Ajlek, have reunited with their old friends the Winsteads. It isn’t a time for celebration, however—Bill and Ajlek were living in the town of Cameron, where Dajhanin are not considered human. The doctor rescued his son from being tortured by a violent cabal, and they’ve arrived in the more tolerant community of Weyland to recuperate. Ajlek, whose soulful blue eyes and outgoing nature enrapture (almost) everyone he meets, fits in alongside his childhood friend Celeste Winstead at school. With Dr. Roger Winstead’s help, Bill begins working at Weyland General Hospital. Eventually, Bill and Ajlek restart their lives and begin planning for the future. And yet, menacing strangers lurk in the shadows. Once Ajlek learns that he is no ordinary Dajhanin, he finds that nobody he loves is safe from those who had captured him once before. Morris adds merely a pinch of psychic ability to her family saga and then follows the tension as it ripples through her small-town cast. Though Ajlek—who doesn't eat meat and can’t lie—sometimes appears all too saintly, his definition of love is perfect when he says it “is more than a feeling. It’s a deep personal resonance that...responds in sympathy to other people.” Morris takes her time developing meaningful moments and characters, like Mr. Wilson, a grocer who hires Ajlek to help him buy a Christmas gift. By the time several twists lead Ajlek to confront a conspiracy, he has the moral authority to step into a role out of a Dajhanin legend. Though the story is sometimes graphic, Morris offers a significant, wholesome epic.
A sprawling, substantial tale for fans of grounded, emotional fantasy.