The fantastical land of Esthopia remains plagued by the power-hungry and malicious Ortaks in this second installment of Benónýsson’s (Invasion of the Ortaks: The Knight, 2014) series.
The story opens with the drowning death of Queen Jofrid of Serpenia in a savage storm. As the Esthopians fret over the spread of the brutal Ortaks, they also face another, more ghoulish threat: creatures from the underworld, first encountered by Queen Jofrid’s lieutenant and his men. The frightened armies, noblemen, and kings of Eniktronia, Montania, and Serpenia face off against the Ortaks and King Armus in a spectacular battle at Broad Valley. But their heroism is offset by their lack of experience, and the Ortaks’ strategic attacks lay waste to them. Meanwhile, King Ethan and Princess Hilda of Alfheim—the land of the elves—and their aides transport themselves to the land of men to inform them of their new supernatural enemies: bull-riding Demons, ferocious wolflike creatures, and the Necromancers who summon them. A ragtag band of soldiers who escaped death at Broad Valley, led by an archer named Axel, find protection together while Queen Maria of Montania and her daughters flee to Storm Castle. Another part-elven hero, Tania, saves Queen Egny of Otanga. The chaos of the setting is reflected in the novel’s tendency to switch jarringly from one plotline to the next and from grand panoramas of Esthopia to individual portraits of its inhabitants as they struggle to stay alive—such as Sir William at Crown Castle, whose valiant attempt to deflect the Ortaks’ siege ends in carnage. However, it also delivers acute descriptions of politics, as an eccentric array of characters from disparate, even hostile, backgrounds find themselves adrift together in a war-torn world. It also tantalizingly refuses to hint at the final outcome regarding the plight of Esthopia and its people.
An often captivating continuation of a fantasy saga.