Updated: Jul 29
** spoiler alert ** I've read a couple of versions of this book, but I've sat on a review until cracking through the audiobook, where I think the story excels the best.
Novel. 4.5* Audiobook. 5* It is an interesting tale, picking up from A Wizard's Forge, but not in a happily ever after sense. Vic is a closet wizard where wizardry is banned. Latha's other royal family are equally fraught. Queen Elekia is hanging onto power by her fingertips, Ashel is crippled with rapidly reducing future options, and Bethniel is the pawn in the governmental powerplay. The only positive is Lornk Korng is deposed and imprisoned and the war is over. It should be the dawn of peace, but it is anything but. All the baggage from book one is dumped into the cauldron of political infighting, and a discontented populace struggling to make ends meet. The question of what happens when the soldiers come home that was dodged in the LOTR films, lands front and centre in what initially seems a successional crisis, but is the second round of a global conflict. Then half the cast disappears down the rabbit hole... The sci-fi elements in book one, plus the use of magic in a non-magical world are skilfully woven into a number of twisting storyarcs that give a widespread cast page time without being overly bloated. Current and past characters intermingle as legend and survival of the human race struggle towards each other, while fighting amongst themselves and their enemies. Without giving much away, don't expect a disneyesque ending. Pretty much every character is tormented by their situation, the challenge ahead, or their lack of options. No-one is unscathed in a pretty punchy ending that is stunning in audioformat as it twists and shocks. For me Earnk, is a tad underused, Ashel is tormented beyond the point he needs a good slap and Wineyll still annoys me. No-one is a hero, everyone is flawed and quite often events (and Parnden) get the better of the characters in the past and present. In that regard, the realism is brutal. Just like in STNG, Picard doesn't immediately recover after Best of Both Worlds. Here Everyone hates Lornk Korng, Parnden and Meylnara, and the damage accrued has a cumlative effect. There is a lot to pull together, and if you're banking on the likely outcome, you may find things become worse and unexpected. Race and faction fight everyone, or stand inactive - unable to act. If the current world lacks magic, the old does not. If you like big booms, portals, siege warfare and tense, impossible situations, you can't go far wrong. Tight editing, elegant prose and a seeming rampant desire to mess up every character in play hides a elegant storyline highlighting many human flaws. The heroes are the ones able to function. With luck they may stay standing, and in war - who can you trust. There's plenty of life in this world if developed further, particularly the first contact.