In Burr’s fantasy debut, an unassuming young woman learns she’s the inheritor of mighty “magick”—and a key figure in the war between good and evil.
The kickoff to Burr’s multivolume fantasy series introduces 20-year-old Esra, a seemingly ordinary peasant in the kingdom of LeVara. It’s not long before she learns that her entire life has been a lie for her own protection. LeVara, far from its appearance as a sleepy land under an apathetic king, has long been a simmering battleground for opposing armies of mages: the heroic Keepers and the evil Elites. The latter are the sorcerer-descendants of a fiendish usurper from centuries past; they’re back after a breakthrough in “magick” R&D helped the villains swell their ranks with orclike mutant soldiers. Esra, who thought herself a clumsy country orphan, is really the daughter of powerful Keeper wizards; she’s a chosen-one type, destined to free LeVara from tyranny. Once Esra’s identity becomes known to the Elites, the Keepers snatch her up to give her a crash course in magickal ground rules, combat techniques and culture. She strives to rally the fearsome but reluctant nonhuman civilizations to join the Keepers’ cause. Though some details are interesting—Burr imagines an enchanted app that can make one’s own skin become a kind of MapQuest and text-message display—these expository passages begin to read like laundry lists, perhaps in anticipation of the series’ future installments. The idea of a female heroic-fantasy protagonist is far from the novelty it once was, and Esra is a plucky but generally nondescript lead; even as the narrative puts her through her first taste of battle and bloodshed, she remains rather bland. Despite lots of flirtatious, hunky Keepers hovering in Esra’s orbit, no overt romance beckons the heroine in this volume. But Burr’s narrative moves at a solid pace, and the author lays the groundwork properly. With these preliminaries out of the way, the next installments hint at grand action in the Tolkien tradition.
The maiden installment of this fantasy saga mainly sets the stage for future clashing and questing.