From a pair of prolific fantasy writers, a massive and for the most part monotonous continuation of events first seen in Well of Darkness (2000). Having vanquished his half brother and aligned himself with the evil power of the Void, Prince Dagnarus, ever so youthful (though he’s 200 years old), now needs only to get his hands on the Sovereign Stone and he’ll rule all of Loerem. (The Stone is a magical gem that has been split in four parts, each giving the person who knows how to use it powers over human and nonhuman inhabitants.) In the previous installment, Weis and Hickman, adopting this standard fantasy plot, invested their medieval-Tolkien pastiche of a world with an unusual depth while retaining requisite amounts of sword and sorcery. Here, the opening is a chiller, with Lord Gustav discovering one of the stones in a moldering grave, then defeating a hideously vicious Vrykyl (an intelligent corpse with magical powers) but finding himself slowly dying of a wound from the Vrykyl’s magically lethal knife (a weapon, we discover, that Vrykyls also use to communicate with each other). The dying Gustav is discovered by the dwarf Wolfram, the human boy Jessan, and his elf buddy Bashae, who take him to a village of Trevinci warriors, where a young mad girl utters dark prophecies that, Cassandra-like, are not believed. Heeding the advice of the village’s matriarchal healer, Gustav lets fate decide who will bring the stone to an elfin lady opposing Dagnarus—and who will be the decoy. Jessan’s warrior uncle Ravenstrike must also get rid of the Vrykyl’s oozing armor by giving it to the High Magus, a sorcerer who, unbeknownst to everyone, is actually the evil Vrykyl Shakur inhabiting the Magus’s corpse, now acting on Dagnarus’s behalf.
A straightforward quest tale that loses its way under the annoying intricacies of the larger conflict among good, evil and the adroitly confused.