young wizard searches for his place in the world in this debut novel.
Dogalas of Kharathad is the adopted son of a farmer, a smart and solid lad who is destined for something more than small-town life. He travels to the Wizard Tower, where he is accepted as an apprentice under the tutelage of a wizard, Master Găbriel. Upon graduation, Dogalas takes to the road, embarking on a journey to gain experience and assist others as a newly minted semizard. His faithful (and mystical) steed, Sandstorm, accompanies him, and they encounter kingdoms inhabited by nonhumans, including elves and gnomes. Dogalas slowly begins to hone his craft, using magic to locate water for a well or battle devilish pixies. His heroic actions to help save the kingdom of Harfang bring Dogalas face to face with the warlocks, creatures of insurmountable evil (“Reptilian humanoids with skin blacker than night, sporting spaded tails and wicked wings”). Following an epic battle, the young wizard undertakes a quest to learn more about the sinister warlocks—“demons without souls, or pity, that used dark magic to steal the souls of others”—and their history. All the while, Dogalas searches for clues about his biological parents, gathering tidbits of information that imply his family connections might explain his extraordinary skills. Weighing in at a little over 750 pages, this book delivers an encompassing fantasy world that follows in the footsteps of J.R.R.Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. Ben Ephraim’s kingdoms are full of magic and mystery, and she does an admirable job of constructing multiple cultures with different languages, foods, belief systems, and traditions. The author is at her best during her first contact stories, such as when Dogalas encounters the gyontar and must survive an unusual feast. Dogalas is a likable protagonist, and his unknown (though surely promising) parentage and background present a tantalizing enigma. Unfortunately, Dogalas’ time on the road bogs down the narrative considerably. Ben Ephraim devotes hundreds of pages to the semizard’s wanderings from place to place. Though these scenes physically move Dogalas along, they do little to further the plot. A few thousand less steps in a long trek would be not be missed.
An occasionally slow-moving but overall promising start to a fantasy series featuring a hero with magical powers.