First English translation of a work written in Russian in 1997, from an award-winning Ukrainian husband-and-wife team now resident in Moscow.
This book is actually the second in a tetralogy that began three years earlier with The Gate-Keeper—so, when bringing translated works to an Anglophone audience, why not begin at the beginning? truly the ways of publishers are strange—which introduced, or, better, created, the enigmatic and powerful mage known as the Wanderer, the key figure in the series. Egert, a supremely skilled, arrogant member of the elite guards, is also a bully and heedless philanderer from a culture that encourages, even extols, such behavior. When a young student, Dinar, and his stunningly beautiful fiancée Toria arrive in town seeking rare books on magic, Egert decides he must have Toria, and torments poor Dinar into a duel. Unskilled, Dinar is easily dispatched, but the mysterious Wanderer, a witness to Dinar's cruel end, challenges Egert in turn. The Wanderer, who could easily have killed Egert, instead contents himself with slashing the guard's face, leaving Egert with a painful scar. Worse, Egert finds that the scar has drained his confidence, leaving him an abject coward, too terrified even to commit suicide. Deserting his regiment, Egert journeys far, eventually arriving in the city where Toria lives with her father, Luayan, a mage and Dean of the University. Taking pity on Egert, Luayan finds him lodging and offers him the chance to attend classes. Somehow, through his shame and degradation, Egert must find a way to face Toria, deal with his own problems, confront the evil designs of a secretive cult of wizards and face the Wanderer's inevitable return. Rich, vivid, tactile prose, with a solid yet unpredictable plot—and an extraordinary depth and intensity of character reminiscent of the finest Russian literature.
A truly spellbinding work even audiences jaded by standard U.S./U.K. fantasy will devour. Kudos to the publishers for taking the plunge—but what took them so long?