A young bladesmith and a healer journey across a barren, post-apocalyptic world in the author’s debut adventure novel.
In the year 2117, the world closely resembles the Middle Ages, having suffered global collapse and a dwindling population—an event called “the Reduction.” Latin, who trades his blade-sharpening skills for goods, agrees to help Autumn, an herbalist whose rejection of a marriage proposal has her on the run. Billy, the rebuffed, is a man with authority, and he sends his guards to seize Autumn. She and Latin travel to Arden, Del., in search of refuge with Latin’s uncle. Bryan’s novel, the first in a series, is short, and to good effect, it concentrates on the lead characters and their trek rather than the world’s disastrous condition, briefly chronicled at the beginning. Latin and Autumn face numerous dangers and challenges on their way to Arden—the persistent need for food and shelter; the risk of infection from injuries; and Billy’s henchmen, the dreaded horse-riding Skullers. Certain specifics of the world get light coverage, however. Bryan reveals little about either Billy or the Skullers, for example, but the couple’s fear of both seems warranted; the baldheaded, leather-bound men shoot at them without provocation. Both Latin and Autumn have unusual back stories that give them dimension: Latin’s parents have disappeared, never having returned from the market, and Autumn’s medicines are quite effective, but the girl, even when asked directly, avoids explaining what’s in the variously colored vials. Perhaps future installments will resolve these mysteries. The leads are commendable, smart enough to be continually wary. Autumn will likely win over readers first; Latin, adept at bow and arrow, kills to protect the two, but he’s shaken by his own actions, and it’s Autumn who coolly validates the deed: “It means we get to live and they don’t.”
Despite its prequel feel, there’s good groundwork for a sensational, lasting series.