First of a new fantasy trilogy from the authors of dozens of best-selling yarns (Dragons of a Fallen Sun, p. 218, etc.), this one, like the Dragonlance series, based on an eponymous role-playing game. Magic portals connect the human empire of Vinnengael with the lands of the horse-riding dwarves, warrior elves, and seafaring orken. To protect the portals and promote peace, King Tamaros has called upon the gods to create Dominion Lords; their shining armor is proof against all but the most potent magical weapons. But the nonhuman races grumble that none of them are Dominion Lords, so Tamaros promises to create ten of each. The ambitious elves, meanwhile, send Silwyth into Tamaros's court as a spy. Tamaros's unruly, defiant, ignorant youngest son, Dagnarus, acquires a whipping boy, Gareth, whom Dagnarus orders to study forbidden Void magic. Tamaros calls upon the gods to create the Sovereign Stone, a huge diamond that divides into four parts, one for each race; only Dagnarus, thrilled, notes the Void at the jewel's center. At Dagnarus's behest, Gareth creates a vampire Vrykyl, as powerful as a Dominion Lord but dedicated to the Void. Dagnarus insists on becoming a Dominion Lord: during the ceremony, he's consumed by flames, then saved by the Void and clad in black armor. Tamaros dies; his heir, the scholarly Helmos, casts Dagnarus out, and civil war looms.
Conventional but sturdy sword and sorcery, well controlled, with good characters and intriguing developments: quite a surprise for both fans and detractors.