Hypercomplicated yet independently intelligible first in a fantasy trilogy: the US debut for an English author of three previous paperbacks.
Elysia, mother of Gavril, portrait painter to the ruling Orlovs of Muscobar, never told her son that he’s the heir to the frigid northern land of Azhkendir. Suddenly, Gavril sees in a vision the treacherous murder of Volkh, his father. Then he's abducted by Kostya, Volkh's right-hand man, and conveyed to Azhkendir, where he learns that by virtue of his Nagarian blood he’s the Drakhaon: within him dwells a dragonlike creature of vast powers and an appetite for human blood—something else his mother never told him. Who killed Gavril's father? Well, a Clan feud between the Nagarians and the Arkhels has festered for centuries; Volkh thought he had slaughtered the last of his enemies, but young Jaromir escaped to neighboring Tielen, where Prince Eugene sponsored him. Kostya and the other warriors urge Gavril to take up the feud; only by killing Volkh's murderer can the old man’s stormy and troublesome ghost be banished. Gentle Gavril isn't convinced. Meanwhile, Eugene, dreaming of reuniting the old Empire by acquiring all the scattered gemstones known as the Tears of Artamon, plots with spymaster Count Velemir to invade Azhkendir by stealth, sorcery, and force of arms. Set against a backdrop drawing on the wars, politics, and folklore of northeastern Europe, the characters tend to lose definition amid the furious welter of intrigue and action-adventure.
Darting, unpredictable, often absorbing, but lacking the spark of true originality.