Set after the events of Fleeing Peace (2011), the first installment of Smith’s new epic fantasy trilogy follows the adventures of a group of untested heroes as they begin to form an alliance of young rulers and magic users to stand against a looming invasion from a mythic evil.
With the forces of Norsunder threatening to enter the temporal world through rifts after having been vanquished more than 4,700 years earlier, Senrid, the newly crowned king of the politically unstable nation of Marloven Hess, Hibern, a highly talented mage student, and Liere, a young shopkeeper’s daughter who saved the realm in an earlier adventure, understand the grave danger a Norsunder invasion brings to all of Sartorias-deles. As the young heroes slowly begin to form their alliance with other leaders—like Atan, the 15-year-old queen of Sartor, the oldest country in the world—the villainous commanders of Norsunder, Detlev and his nephew Siamis, plot to put the entire realm under magical control. But while Smith’s signature realm of Sartorias-deles is richly described and full of narrative potential, the entire novel has an unfocused feel to it. The unwieldiness of the numerous plot threads slows the pace down to a crawl and, coupled with a conspicuous lack of significant action (particularly in the first 500 pages), gives the book a bloated quality. Readers may also be confused about the target audience of this trilogy. The main characters are all young adults, and the content—a looming magical war where entire populations could be wiped out—is decidedly dark. The tone, however, is strangely light, downplaying the violence and concentrating more on character dynamics. Ultimately, this long novel falls flat, with cardboard characters, excruciatingly slow pacing, and very little action: disappointing on almost all levels.
Epic fantasy fans would be advised to find their literary escapism elsewhere.