A young man discovers he has a surprising magical destiny in the debut entry of Rice’s (An Oath of Brothers, 2014, etc.) YA secondary-world fantasy series.
Although Thorgrin—Thor, for short—is only 14, he longs to join the King’s Legion, an elite order of knights who protect King MacGil. On Conscription Day, however, he is devastated when his three older brothers, who had always treated him poorly, are accepted, and he is left behind. Soon afterward, when chasing a sheep into the woods, he comes across one of the king’s top advisers, the centuries-old Druid Argon. Argon hints at the boy’s destiny and his unrealized magical powers—which the boy then discovers when he manages to shoot some sort of energy at a terrifying creature called a Sybold. Argon also suggests that Thor travel to court regardless of having been overlooked by the king’s guards. Thor does so and rapidly becomes the toast of King’s Court after demonstrating his powers and becoming fast friends with MacGil’s youngest son, Reece, who is also in the Legion. After saving knight Erec’s life, Thor becomes a favorite of the king, and the king’s daughter, Gwendolyn, falls in love with him at first sight. Rice’s entertaining epic fantasy includes classic traits of the genre—a strong setting, highly inspired by ancient Scotland and its history, and a good sense of court intrigue. Its style has its drawbacks, however. It tells a familiar story of a young, unappreciated young man who discovers that he is actually a magical Chosen One destined for great things. In fan fiction terms, he is the male Mary Sue, skyrocketing to fame practically hours after arriving at court. The characters also feel slight and simplistic, and the story ends with an abrupt cliffhanger.
A fun but anemic, derivative fantasy.