Carlsson weaves gritty realism and mystical lore into an epic fantasy about classic themes of love and war.
Selen has nothing—not even his memories. Naked and wandering through the forest, he finds temporary solace in an abandoned herbalist’s hut before a strange, burning sensation in his chest pulls him southward. Unfortunately, the kingdom of Trevalden is in that direction, and Trevalden is wracked by war. Louis, an archivist in the kingdom, also feels a similar burning that draws him to Selen. Together, they seek to join the Rebellion—a group that fights back against the monsters, human and otherwise, that war has loosed upon the land. Along with a new acquaintance, Lissandro, they go on to brave not only the danger of combat, but also the deadly hazards of court intrigue. Enemies surround them, including Trevalden’s King Agroln the blood-mage; Segar, a one-time ally; and a high priest. To save themselves and the kingdom, the heroes learn to accept the strange bonds that exist between them. Indeed, the bond between Selen and Louis is a high point of the book—an unexpected romantic flowering that comes to have even greater meaning later in the narrative. Erotic scenes crop up fairly often, and they’re described in more detail than average for the genre. Unfortunately, these and other descriptions can be a bit lengthy, with unnecessary adjectives: fallen leaves, for example, are needlessly described as “dead” and looming trees as “tall.” Once the story gets going, though, it moves at a good pace, and the chain of events covers a large array of epic-fantasy elements, from gruesome warfare to courtly intrigue to noble dissipation.
A fantasy that, despite some uneven prose, offers some fresh characters and unique twists for the genre.