My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’ve been hearing about Michael J. Sullivan’s epic fantasy books for some time now, but this was my first by him. It’s definitely a good introduction to his work – although this was set in the same world as at least some of his earlier publications, I didn’t feel like I was ‘missing’ anything at any point. I guess it’s a prequel, set much earlier in time.
If you’re a fan of classic, epic fantasy, this does the job. It’s a solid, competent piece of storytelling. It checks off all the tick boxes for the genre. It’s got Men, Elves and Dwarves (I mean, Rhunes, Fhrey, and Dhereg). There’s an ancient conflict, magic, a mystic shaman, and brave heroes who stand up for their people in the face of overwhelming opposition… It’s a hefty chunk of story, as fantasy fans tend to enjoy, but it leaves room for plenty more action to come (I think 5 books are planned in this story arc.) It’s enjoyable throughout. However, it doesn’t really exceed expectations or break new ground.
The long-lived Fhrey are regarded as gods by the less-advanced Rhunes. However, this long-standing belief may be shattered when, pushed to an extreme, a young Rhune man, Raithe, kills a Fhrey. This incident may become the tipping point into conflagration, because little did the Rhunes know that Fhrey society has been fracturing under the surface. One of their tribes has become more adept at magic than any other, and their newfound powers are going to their heads: not only do they want to be viewed as gods; they’re beginning to see themselves as gods, and are pushing a ‘might makes right’ philosophy.
Fleeing the Fhrey, Raithe finds sanctuary in a village. However, the village is itself in internal turmoil. The chieftain has recently died, and the new chief seems intent on ignoring the sage advice of his widow, Persephone. As a matter of fact, some of his warriors seem intent on getting Persephone out of the way – possibly permanently. Their short-sightedness is poorly timed, as the village has also recently been enduring the ravages of a bear that’s rumored to be possessed by a demon. And if they can’t handle a bear, how will they survive an attack by a magic-wielding Fhrey legion?
Of course, Raithe and Persephone team up… and we take it from there.
The character’s behaviors and motivations are a little… straightforward and obvious. It felt especially clunky when the main villain was pulling his ‘manipulation techniques’ on the young prince. There isn’t an enormous amount of depth or subtlety, and some characters are remarkably resistant to seeing things that are right in front of their eyes, even when they’re not actually supposed to be dim-witted. Regardless, it’s a fun story.
Many thanks to Del Rey and NetGalley for the opportunity to try out this author. As always, my opinions are solely my own.