In this fantasy debut, several humanoid societies are thrown into chaos after their emperor darkly interprets a prophecy.
Seventeen-year-old Amanki of the Tzoladian village of Arvuk has webbed feet, like the rest of his people, who’ve adapted to a life of fishing along the Lanaduk River. One day, his friend Baskrod, a fisherman, warns his family that they must flee. Emperor Zoltov of Tzoladia believes that a prophecy has “confirmed his worst fears” about the return of his brother, whom he buried alive. The ruler sets in motion a genocide before a “new star glows in the skies,” which will signal the emergence of a threat to the throne. Baskrod and Amanki barely escape when horsemen, led by the brutal Bladar, attack Arvuk. Meanwhile, in the Mesmeringa Forest village of Kalpok, 16-year-old Brina (a Glider, who can use flaps of skin under her arms to fly) sees a new, bright star in the Duck Constellation. She knows that it’s her destiny to meet two other “chosen” young people in Tzoladia. Moshoi, a youth from the rocky Hattom region who’s covered in scales, is the final member of this heroic team. If they can all meet up in Tzoladia, the artifacts that they possess—three Titilanzur “star prophecy” seals—will reveal “the land where the hidden treasure lies.” In this debut, Denny offers well-developed concepts, such as the mesmeringa tree—which provides the Gliders with food, medicine, and their homes. The character Metlan, of the Samalitan Plains people, has no physical enhancements, but he represents the human capacity for growth; he begins the novel with the certainty that the Gliders only resemble people, but are, in fact, animals, but Brina’s passion and kindness change his mind. Occasional scenes of violence are quite effective, as when Amanki witnesses a scalping, and the emperor’s notion of harvesting webbed feet or Glider claws is utterly gruesome. This first volume gives the protagonists lively, separate adventures, readying them for future installments in one another’s company. Amanki, however, is the breakout character whose fate will most engage readers.
A spirited novel that provides a deep, rich foundation for a planned fantasy series.