In this fantasy debut, widespread change comes to a realm populated by humans, dragons, and ethereal caretakers.
Ladrin, a dragon from the frigid lands of Gren Amar, has finally returned from the southern continent. His mission, like all young dragons sent south, was to observe the hot, unruly strangeness in order to expand his horizons and understand his place in the world. But there’s one rule that all pilgrims must abide: no living thing can come back with them to Gren Amar. Now, almost home and recuperating in a snowy nest, Ladrin is stunned to find that a brilliant Phoenix bird has returned with him. Meanwhile, a couple of human explorers named Thervius and Belderon find themselves trapped by snow in a cave. With their people’s blessing, the two men had left their home after uniting as mates for life. Now, they must bring home another blessing, such as jewels—or perhaps something more precious. As the cave floods, they escape, and the heat from their “heartlight” intensifies, protecting them from the elements. But eventually, their affection for each other becomes dangerous, smothering them in a “dark, red sac.” Later, Ladrin mistakes this sac for a lumpy egg, which he decides to bring to the dragons of Gren Amar. Back among the human populace, Thervius’ older brother, Janku, suffers a terrible accident while tending the family farm. Rage infects his body, creating a demon made of soot that stalks the countryside. In her meditative debut, author Henson explores themes of love, cohesion, and forgiveness using charged fantasy imagery. The ambience of her realm borders on the divine; Gren Amar’s river, for example, has “bright red gingko leaves [that] floated atop the swirling streaks of crushed turquoise and lapis lazuli.” Action sequences are invested with emotional distress, as when Janku becomes a “morphing bomb of soot that pulverized generations of work and accumulation.” A background narrative tells of a world-defining symphony that draws on the power of rocks and stones, in a process helped by a sylphlike being named Welphrym. A subtle romance between a chieftain, Marcus, and a priestess, Sophia, is refreshing, but Henson’s matter-of-fact use of gay protagonists is doubly so.
An emotionally nuanced tale for those who crave fresh fantasy storytelling.