Three Aelfene kingdoms have collapsed and a war has begun in the prequel to and third volume in the wholesome Brazen Serpent Chronicles series.
Several generations ago, dragons and the Aelfene people lived together in unity until a malevolent creature discovered the dark arts and an ability to control others. When the new installment in their saga opens, three Aelfene kingdoms have collapsed and war has commenced: It’s darkness versus light. This prequel by Baird (Talon of Light, 2004, and The Caduceus, 2006) centers on two heroes: Meliandra, a reverent leader who protects what’s left of Aelfene civilization in a hidden territory, and Arnor, a young man charged with a complicated mission that includes lost gems, undead captives and bittersweet love. Readers familiar with the series may remember his cameo in an earlier book and recognize what he’s creating—a weapon for a future king capable of restoring order. The overarching good-versus-evil theme of the series continues, as do the religious undertones, which appear frequently. The novel casts the Aelfene people as the same as humans save for one key feature: They choose to live by “high principles,” with unwavering faith in “the powers of light,” as recounted in the “Manual of Discipline.” The main characters and those who help them are righteous: They make sacrifices for the better of all, practicing what they preach. Without an Achilles’ heel, they’re one-dimensional, but the book has a quick pace and vivid, sensory imagery. Every page contains dramatic action or vital plot information, though a break here or there to digest it all wouldn’t have hurt. Readers may pick up on inconsistencies between this book and others: the back story Meliandra recounted as an old woman does not seem to match the one elaborated on here.
A strong pace and scenes offset flat characterizations.