Final installment in Russell’s medieval-Wales–flavored fantasy trilogy (The Isle of Battle, 2002, etc.) centered on the magical River Wynnd.
The three plot strands here often converge, cross, tangle, or just plain confuse. Chief among human concerns is the civil war raging between the Wills and the Renné, though it’s rarely clear who’s related to whom, and in what degree—and it’s never certain, even to the protagonists, who’s on whose side. . . not to mention the long list of traitors, turncoats, and double-crossers. Next, there’s the feud, perpetuated down the ages, among the three children of the sorcerer Wyrr; the River Wynnd preserves their souls until it’s opportune for them to emerge into the world, causing havoc once more. Hafydd, the evil knight and sorcerer of flame, hates and despises Elise, with her water-magic, and Alaan, with his warrior skills. Hafydd also has ambitions to rule the world, and to further them has made a bargain to release Death from the underworld. To achieve this, he must create a soul-eater, an entity against which even Elise and Alaan together can’t stand. The Wills-Renné struggle suits Hafydd, since, regardless of alliances, he can compel whatever loyalty he needs. Further complications arise from various magic gems, not to mention giants, elves, and other stock folk or creatures that muddy the waters but exert little or no overall effect.
Furiously, bafflingly complicated, then, but nothing and nobody original or compelling enough to stand forth from the background noise. Even Russell’s usually pellucid prose has degenerated into plodding banality.