In this dark fantasy debut, a centuries-old Wizard crosses paths with a dying breed of gun-slinging lawmen.
Lynch, a villainous Dark Wizard some five centuries old, is being pursued by a mercenary across the frigid wastes of the post-apocalyptic World. The merc’s name is Ned Roark—one of King Elander’s magii’ri, who use magic and pistols to uphold the moral Code of Aard, the Mountain God. Elsewhere in the World, Lorn Graywullf and his magii’ri companions (Bill, Ox, and Smilin’ Jake) have spied a merchant ship full of weapons and gunpowder belonging to Mordant, the Black Queen. After wresting it from her, they proceed to the Isle of Serpents to stash the bounty. There, they encounter a nearly drowned Lynch, who promises to help destroy the World’s plague of Slayers, airborne creatures of Dark Magic, in exchange for a chance to recuperate. Lynch also explains the current situation in Graywullf’s home, Norland, in which Marsten—head of the wealthy magii’ri Council—has been using the magical warriors to enforce widespread corruption and economic suppression. Graywullf, who’s been away from home for almost two years, shudders to think that his son, Luke, may be in danger. But how far can Lynch and his words be trusted? Debut author Rottinghaus, in the first segment of his trilogy, has produced a sleek distillation of his influences—mostly J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King. His setup is a marathon of taut action and mythmaking that steams forward as it continuously infuses fantasy elements with precision, including dragons, magic tomes, and alternate realms. The author also hints at the World as it once was in lines like, “The men of that time traveled impossible distances in horseless carriages.” The book’s use of magic is subtle, taking place primarily in the minds of dueling Wizards—at one point, a challenger simply dies because his power is inferior to Lynch’s, and a killing spell is reversed. As the heroes tear through layer upon layer of evil (and experience their own casualties), the battles become increasingly gory, and the plot satisfyingly dense. It will be a thrill to watch this towering narrative grow during the next two planned volumes.
A fine fantasy debut intensified by its emotional heft and