An epic fantasy focuses on a brutal usurper and a princess on the run.
At the age of 15, Radia inherits the throne of Tyrnael. Tyrnael has a long history of peace and tranquility, and it seems that Radia should be able to maintain this tradition. The people of Tyrnael rarely die of anything but old age. This all comes crashing down when Radia’s wicked brother, Zaibos, seizes control of the realm in a bloody coup. Radia has no choice but to flee with a loyal guard named Demacharon. But Zaibos is determined to see Radia destroyed. He goes so far as to task a reclusive assassin named Eros with bringing back Radia’s heart. So begins Radia’s journey as a hunted girl in a world that will hold some uncomfortable realities. She is no mere princess but an earthy, highly empathetic beauty who often sees little need for clothing and even less need for killing. In fact, Demacharon, though sworn to protect Radia, must also promise her he won’t kill anyone. Meanwhile, Zaibos is determined to expand his power while also crushing the spirit of anything breathing. He even makes use of simple, brutal subterranean creatures called bogrens. The bogrens, who have names like Grumblestump and Bloodsnot, seem to find nothing funnier than watching one of their own fall into underground magma. Don’t bother asking them if they know what the word “friend” means.
And so the forces of good and evil are pitted against each other in a story that includes extremes ranging from a child hearing a bedtime story to a number of ghastly forms of execution. If readers think this will be a simple tale of a kind princess (who says things like “If given a chance, people are generally good”) removed from power only to have her returned to glory after some cheerful hack-and-slash escapades, they are mistaken. Alimonos’ novel, his second book set in the world of Aenya, takes a number of unexpected, even wild turns, many of them involving combat, torture, or more information on the main players. The bad guys certainly have a lot of background. Zaibos establishes himself as a supreme villain, a tyrant who goes so far as to wear some elaborate, wartime headgear even in the comfort of his own throne room. Likewise, Eros proves a sophisticated part of the plot. With his deadly spiders and his love of his mother, he has more depth than readers might expect from a figure who makes his living by killing people. But some of the good guys are not quite as intricate. While Krow, an aptly named, speaking birdlike figure, may be a skilled sailor, his origins on the crew of an airship do not add much to the larger story. Nevertheless, the tale, with its many violent shifts, will have readers constantly wondering if there will ever again be peace in Tyrnael.
A heroine’s trials make for a winding, bloody adventure with plenty of surprises.(map)