An occasionally banal but frequently imaginative story of political intrigue and mystical wonder set in a well-rendered fictional world.
Under the rule of the kings of Oridia, peace has prevailed for three centuries in the sprawling kingdom of Zalar. Oridia is ruled by the wise King William, a benevolent leader whose reign is drawing to a close. As the time nears for William to be succeeded by his son, the talented but green soldier Lionel, the young commander is called to lead an expeditionary force to the outland city of Am Nok Kar, where a small band of Oridian soldiers and traders has recently disappeared. The Oridians suspect the Nomads–a traditionally peaceful but mysterious race of desert magicians–of wiping out the group, but cannot discern the reason for the mages’ sudden violence. However, the prospect of a newly war-like Nomad clan is the least of their problems. As Lionel’s troops ready for battle, the Ricidians–a long-time rival of the Oridians–have formed an alliance with the lizard-like, barbaric clan of the Ramuluks, and the two groups are secretly conspiring to bring an end to King William’s reign. Much to the young author’s credit, the characterization of the Oridians and the Ricidians is not beholden to a Manichean system that cleanly pits evil forces against good. Instead, the characters are simply rendered but multifaceted, capable of both altruism and vice. As the mayhem unfolds, it becomes clear that all is not what it seems, and that events are being orchestrated by a much more powerful–and much more malevolent–demonic force.
A solid fledgling effort by a new voice in the fantasy genre.