This third volume of Neill’s (The Voyage of the Elawn, 2016, etc.) fantasy series focuses on a young prince desperate to heal the malady that makes him an outsider.
Queen Airre’ Soliegh of Antas died giving birth to Prince Haille Hillbourne. Also known as the King’s Woe, the child suffers seizures and must be bound in his crib. When Yana Yansalyl, a newly appointed member of the King’s Council, arrives at the castle, she soothes a crying Haille while storms rage outside. Eleven years later, the young prince considers Yana his foster mother, but the curse of his seizures has left him taunted and guilt-ridden. After an incident involving Katlyn Barnes, a classmate from the Academy House, Haille must work in the library as punishment. He encounters a folio that mentions the Font of Jasmeen, “a boon to those afflicted with sicknesses and maladied from birth. For those who touch its waters will be granted any wish.” He also runs into Katlyn again, who convinces him to steal the page naming the Font’s location on Morbright Mountain. Later, Haille finds his father’s letter requesting that the prince be accommodated at Master Chambridge’s home for the afflicted. Rather than face this fate, Haille and Katlyn escape Antas and journey east to find the miraculous Font. In this third Elk Riders adventure, Neill turns from his heroine Gabriella and explores the wider realm of Anthor, where armies mobilize and the legendary vigilante Avenger Red proves “the bane of child slavers.” Fans accustomed to the author’s lilting, evocative prose won’t be disappointed: “the wind made a soft whistle in the branches and summer fattened spiders spun shining webs in the windows of crypts.” This volume revels in more swordsmanship than sorcery, giving Haille’s allies Cody Youngblood, Valateen Mandaly, and the elk Adamantus a workout. The line “Man is not measured by his brawn only but how he can love and be loved by others” appears early, hinting at the tender finale.
A darker, more grounded entry—with a
royal hero—that approaches this strong saga from a new angle.