From the author of Tailchaser's Song (1985), the opening chunk (672 pages, no less) of yet another imitation-Tolkien trilogy. In Osten Ard, the local Middle-Earth, stands the ancient castle Hayholt, where soon the ambitious prince Elias will be crowned king. Prompted by his evil advisor, the sorcerer-priest Pryrates, Elias intends to obtain an ancient sword of great but dark power. But where has Elias' honest brother Josua One-Hand disappeared to? Well, Simon, inept but lovable kitchen-boy and apprentice to the wise Dr. Morgenes, stumbles upon Josua chained in the dungeons. Morgenes and Simon free Josua, though Pryrates sorcerously kills Morgenes. Simon barely escapes, to go wandering blindly through the countryside. He rescues a trapped and dying Sithi (the cat-like local Elves) who gives him a White Arrow in return. Next Simon is befriended by the dwarfish troll Binabik, and finally joins up with Josua, now leading the resistence against Elias. According to one of Simon's prophetic dreams, two other ancient swords (both now lost) may help to counteract the power of Elias' sword. So a quest to the frozen north gets underway; Simon encounters his old friend, the Sithi prince Jiriki; they find one of the swords, and discover the real enemy: the Storm King (guess who he resembles), an evil sorcerer-Sithi long thought dead. Simon grows, pleasingly, from an inattentive and foolish preteen into a thoughtful and determined young adult. As for the rest: derivative ideas, a numbing plot, banal invented languages, and no conclusion whatsoever. A vast, dusty, irrelevant drone.