Grief, madness and treachery send King Leon on a murderous campaign against former allies and the mystic nomads of Laurent, culminating in rebellion and war.
Fans of exotic high fantasy can lose themselves in the many intricacies of author Ebert’s impressively sprawling saga, even if not all the audacious narrative gambits pay off. Leon, a noble-minded but tragic king with Arthurian attributes, becomes unhinged by the loss of his (unfaithful) queen and sons to a mysterious plague sweeping the land of Laurent. Influenced by his sinister, necromancer/counselor, Leon wages a vengeful and genocidal campaign against former friends and long-standing foes alike—especially tribes of nomadic mystics, condemned as blaspheming heathen by the state religion (a harsh faith resembling Judeo-Christianity). But a goddess overseeing this world has insinuated divine power into certain key refugees, including a little girl cared for by Dayvd, a mythic Laurent warrior-hero dwelling incognito. As Leon’s bloody purge ravages the land, Dayvd joins the rebel alliance. Much of the action unfolds in the sexually charged environment of a guildhall for sanctioned bounty hunters, where key players—some royalty, others commoners—find themselves falling into lust/love with each other. Arch, mock-archaic and offbeat wordplay includes deliberate anachronisms (“pity party,” “motion-pictures” “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” “black ops”) and sometimes epigrammatic prose that shifts from purple to fey to bardic yet always seems apt. Readers seduced by the style and ambition may be more forgiving of the fuzzy denouement: a mighty battle that suddenly zooms into the inscrutable realm of the gods, with many character outcomes left either undecided or inferred. Attempts to comment on real-world issues—LGBT tolerance and tax breaks for the rich, especially—surface within the intricate weave of Ebert’s marvelous world and sometimes jar.
Genre fans seeking a fix of especially ornate, challenging and imaginative high fantasy could find this one quite catchy.