Cifichiello’s fantasy debut follows a group of warriors on a quest for survival.
Trouble is afoot when the Five Kings of Varkuvia decide to disband the highly trained warrior group known as the Order of Acrium—“the greatest fighting force in known history”—because, the kings say, it is “both too costly to maintain and is no longer necessary in bringing peace to these lands.” Without the Order of Acrium for protection, the land of Varkuvia is in danger of succumbing to four treacherous lords from the mountainous east. Meanwhile, soldiers like Trystan find themselves displaced. Homeless and with no known relatives, Trystan remains quick with a sword albeit unsure of his destiny. That is until he and other former members of the Order become targets of assassination. “I don’t know how many of us remain,” Trystan says, “but someone is going to great lengths to see our lives extinguished.” Banding together with old friends Jaxon, Kole, and Gavin, Trystan and company fight to save not only their own lives, but the land they once protected. Cifichiello’s novel is full of clashing swords and brutal warfare: “The enemy went into a frenzy, cutting the heads from defenders, and placing them upon their spear points, shaking them back and forth, taunting the remaining defenders.” Moments of flat dialogue—as when Jaxon’s wife expresses her gratitude: “I’m truly grateful to you for that”—dull the adventure’s edge, though a speedy pace helps keep the journey moving. Fans of scheming lords and battling peasants will enjoy the political maneuvering, which is complex though not impenetrable. Dotted with magical surprises and streaks of blood—“The streets became littered with the bodies of the slain, and the ground itself bled the tears of the fallen, the red liquid flowing beneath the combatants”—the story provides a swift journey through a land of kings, warriors, and a populace struggling to make sense of it all. As one member of the Order says, “People are idiots.”
Heroes cut through danger in this action-heavy quest.