A young seer discovers her destiny in this opener for a new fantasy series.
Timid Lark, rendered vulnerable by her prophetic Sight, prefers solitary gardening to adventure. Yet after a vision in which bestial Troths devastate her village, she bravely agrees to seek aid from the mysterious Riders. At their stronghold in Tarnec, Lark is stunned to be hailed as one of the destined Guardians of Balance, bound to seek the stolen orb of Life. She’s paired with the inexplicably hostile Gharain (quite literally the man of her dreams), who she foresees will break her heart…and kill her. The refreshingly original magical system of this world allows for images of aching beauty, describing Lark’s connection to the Earth and all its creatures. Unfortunately, Lark herself is vacillating, weepy and prone to bouts of melodramatic self-pity. Her successful use of her powers seems more lucky coincidence and authorial fiat than any personal strength. Her torrid romance with Gharain (who exhibits no discernible personality whatsoever) feels equally forced, and the remaining characters are bland, spouting unnatural dialogue constructed of stilted aphorisms and cryptic hints. The slow pacing of the first half accelerates into an exciting climax filled with lurid torture, grisly violence and genuine courage. Unfortunately, the denouement simply waves away all obstacles to a fairy-tale conclusion, leaving just enough dangling to set up the obvious sequels.
Disappointing. (Fantasy. 10-15)