A mystical apprentice uses her magical abilities against dark forces in Cederman’s debut high-fantasy novel, the first in a planned series.
The novel begins with a prologue that introduces Caeth Salkar, a “new-age anthropologist” researching her descendants: a race of ancient mystics called the Viskarae. The story then goes back to the time of those mystics, whose society includes people with royal, sacred and dark warrior bloodlines. After a tidal wave ravages the Viskarae’s peaceful community, their spiritual leader, the Shepherd, has a vision of a new homeland, and they all make plans to travel there. Meanwhile, the Shepherd takes Kaela, a local girl, under his wing after she’s chosen by the Viskarae’s deity as one of the five Mystics. Isolated from outsiders in their new home, the Viskarae test the limits of their mystical abilities. However, some of them become enamored with the dark elements of their bloodlines. As a chosen Mystic, Kaela must keep her sacred oath and fight the dark forces that threaten her people—including her own family. Cedarman effectively fleshes out the Viskarae’s society; the details of their daily lives and the structure of their government are imaginative while also being logical and realistic. The characters’ interpersonal relationships, particularly the charming bond between Kaela and the Shepherd, are given equal time with the action, so readers will feel how high the stakes are. The author’s language is quite elegant, which works well in the character descriptions (“Kaela saw the ash blonde ringlets woven throughout her chestnut curls”) and battle scenes; however, the same style in the characters’ dialogue feels too stiff and formal. Also, although the framing device of Caeth’s story will grab readers’ attention at the start of the book, the author provides only occasional exposition about her later on, and offers little on what Caeth feels about what she’s learning. Overall, however, the story is complex and intriguing, and ends on a compelling cliffhanger to lead readers to the next book.
A solid debut set in a vivid fantasy world.