Stand-alone fantasy, first published in 1996 in the author's native Australia (Hades’ Daughter, 2003).
Young Garth Baxtor, apprentice to his physician father, is gifted with a healing touch above and beyond other healers in the kingdom of Escator. Accompanying his father on his annual mission to the Veins, a mine worked solely by condemned prisoners, Garth discovers that one of the inmates has tattooed on his arm the image of a mythical beast, the Manteceros: a tattoo restricted to the rightful king and to his direct heir. The prisoner can only be Prince Maximillian, who disappeared as a young boy nearly twenty years ago. Shocked, Garth conceals his discovery even from his father; but upon their return home, he begins trying to find out what he can about the Mantoceros—and a strange rhyme the prisoner had recited before Garth had to leave him. With the help of a young marsh girl, Ravenna, who has the power to enter the land of dreams, and of Vorstus, abbot of an order dedicated to the royal house, Garth realizes that King Cavor, current ruler of Escator, must have had Maximillian captured and condemned to the mines (those wearing the Mantoceros tattoo are protected from murder). The three decide that when Garth returns to the Veins with his father, they will free Maximillian so that he can challenge the usurper and, with the help of the Manteceros, perhaps regain his throne. Naturally, there are various complications, a few too many of which long-time fantasy readers are likely to see coming; in the end, the conspirators achieve their goal, justice is restored, and the story ends without any apparent need for a sequel.
Serviceable prose, and a young protagonist who’s refreshingly unmannered: overall, a smoothly crafted if not highly original fantasy.