In Winston’s fantasy, a singer and tinker unite to avenge a “witchwoman” and her people and save a kingdom in the process.
In a remote village, twins Cray and Cree as well as Ver, son of Horl, enter a stone hut to have their dreams read by Horl, the Village Father. These dreams are significant because they will determine the children’s destinies. Based on the nature of their dreams, the Village Father renames the twins Crayl and Crel and sends them away to become a fisherman and tinker, respectively. His son Ver becomes Verl, and he’s sent away to become a healer and harpist. The friends are separated, but years later, their paths cross again when the witchwoman Merind needs their skills to save her people and the kingdom of Norgondy from the tyranny of Queen Felain and a religious order known as the Badurians. Verl and Crel must overcome dangerous enemies and self-doubt to save Merind’s people and rescue a kingdom. The strongest elements of Winston’s novel are the detailed descriptions of Norgondy, its rituals and its religious conflicts. Merind’s people hold a celebration each year called Festival Week, and Winston’s descriptions of the event are lively. Verl and Crel are appealing heroes who use courage and ingenuity to fulfill their destinies. In the large supporting cast, each character has a unique back story, and Winston adeptly balances multiple subplots while keeping a tight focus on the main plotline. Although the story is eventful, the pacing is slow, and the outcomes of many events can be rather predictable, especially since the novel’s exposition telegraphs a bit too much. The prose could also use some more editorial polish. For example, in one scene, “cups were filled and refilled until everyone in their group, the wounded first, then those able to walk, had drunken all they wanted.”
Not lacking imagination or colorful characters, but the promising story is weakened by sluggish pacing and predictable plot twists.