This fantasy debut sees a dark face manipulating two kingdoms into war.
King Regulus has asked Magnus, the hero of the Great War that was fought five years ago, to come out of retirement. Although he’s a farmer now, Magnus is still known as the Phoenix of Regulus, and he remains the kingdom’s most honorable military man. He agrees to go on a diplomatic mission to Catalia, a nearby realm that’s approaching civil war. Magnus doesn’t get the chance to broker peace between the rebels and King Tobias’ forces, however, as his Regulan detachment, including 18-year-old knights Sain and Trun, suffer a Catalian ambush. Magnus and his men recover in Tset, the rebels’ capital. Their leader, Lord Garon, convinces the Phoenix to help them in their fight. Dagab, Catalia’s capital, has become a brutal place where a group of judges execute citizens who speak against them. When the judges’ field commander, Ragin, loses against Magnus on the Fillandrosa battleground, the group recalls Ragin’s soldiers from the western front. Sain then attempts to assassinate Ragin, but before he can, a shadowy creature captures Sain and transports him to Dagab. There, the knight meets Ragin’s sister, Fea, a rebel organizer. A demon, meanwhile, is using humans as pawns to reach the Aurora, a power source that comes from Velestra, the Goddess of Judgment. Author Morea sets an elaborate table, heaped with spiritual reckonings, magic-tinged war, and politics that mirror the current congressional gridlock. As an example of the dark tone, Fea grimly wonders if the phrase “all is well in Catalia” is “a sarcastic joke Dagabians told themselves or a convenient fiction they all bought into.” On the spiritual side, a man named Zelious guides Sain in matters of fighting and faith, telling him that “There are some things that are better left discovered, not told.” However, what truly separates Morea’s epic fantasy from so many others is its narrative compression, as events roll by quickly and ferociously, with plot enough to fill two volumes. The author also crafts a stunning finale for his well-traveled cast.
A satisfying fantasy opus that will leave readers hungry for Morea’s next work.