In Elan’s ancient past, men were called Rhunes and were treated as less than animals by the long-lived, magic-wielding Fhrey, whom the Rhunes believe to be immortal gods.
With a suspenseful plot and some engaging characters, the first book of a new epic-fantasy series returns Sullivan's (The Death of Dulgath, 2015, etc.) readers to the land of Elan 3,000 years before the events of his previous Riyria Chronicles. One of the five major races of Elan, the Rhunes eke out poverty-stricken lives in clusters of small settlements, or dahls, while the extremely long-lived and well-heeled Fhrey rule as if they were gods. But when Raithe and his father cross the forbidden Bern River, their trespass blossoms into a war between the Fhrey and the Rhunes, in which Raithe earns the name of God-Killer and the Fhrey learn to respect Rhunes as men. Along the way readers will encounter a ferocious, possibly demonic, man-killing bear, Grin the Brown; a mystic child, Suri, who is far more than she seems, and her white wolf companion, Minna; a brave widow, Persephone, who will become the first female chieftain of her dahl; and a host of others, including such genre standards as giants, talking trees, goblins, and woodland spirits, all painted into a vast but familiar fantasy canvas.
Sullivan’s world is richly detailed but emotionally threadbare since all the action, bloodshed, magic, and menace lead to a clichéd conclusion: the good ones win, and the evil ones lose.