In Diamantopoulos’ fantasy/adventure, an unlikely group of adventurers—a young soldier, an old scholar/wizard and a young woman with unknown powers—race to find a mad wizard and stop a war.
When we first meet him, Lt. Mordecai faces an imperial arbiter who demands to know the truth behind Mordecai’s past adventures with the young heiress Amethyst and the scholar Damascus. His story—occasionally interrupted by the arbiter—begins when he’s called to protect a summit between the kingdoms, a summit meant to ensure peace in the face of continued drought and potential famine. When Amethyst survives an assassination attempt, Mordecai and Damascus bring Amethyst to a safe haven, which happens to be the site of ruins left by the land’s previous inhabitants: legendary beings who were able to control magic but who fled this world. The location proves to be less than safe for Amethyst’s group; a demonic warrior wearing magical armor attacks them. This prompts the group to begin a dual-purpose quest: Track down the mad wizard and find the magical “cornerstone” that might help prevent the war. As many fantasy classics do, Diamantopoulos’ debut opens with a map; he’s not afraid to use such tropes of fantasy, from the scholar/wizard to the sanity-eroding magical artifact to the vague medievalism of kings and broadswords. Though not always original, this fantasy keeps the action humming with a series of quests and obstacles. Occasional grammatical glitches (“peak” for “peek”), modern-sounding language (“an insignificant cog in a great engine,” “field trip”) and clichés (skipped heartbeats, etc.) clutter the text. The book ends with a revelation that, while surprising, lacks punch.
A fine fantasy/adventure debut with some serious hiccups.