PLAGUE OF SHADOWS: BOOK TWO OF THE ALDORAN CHRONICLES by Michael Wisehart
Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson
According to this tale the `Plague of Shadows’ is a grimoire used by the evil wizard Valtor, the Arch-Chancellor of the White Tower to resurrect Argon, a general to the dead wizard Aerodyne in order to undermine the peace and prosperity of the people of Sidara. His sorceress, Mangora had already been responsible for releasing an army of arachnobes – gigantic spiders to you and me – on the wielder council of Easthaven and their liege lord Barl, the Overlord of Sidara.
This book, being the second volume of the Aldoran Chronicles follows on from the crises that manifested in the first. It is a set of different tales detailing the further adventures of the principal characters in the entire drama. Many novels attempting this fragmented narrative technique end up confusing the reader, but Wisehart has given his characters distinct forms that allow the reader to clearly differentiate between them as the story progresses.
Ferrin, the magic wielding swordsmith having escaped from torture at The White Tower with the compliance of a traitorous guard is now seeking a safe haven with the guard, the healer Rae and her infant daughter Suri. They are being pursued by the soul of his resurrected torturer now residing in the body of Jonen, a novice member of the White Guard accompanied by the bulradoer or enchantress Lenara. Now and again the personality of Jonen breaks through the magic to entertain Lenara.
Amarysia, lady in waiting to the widowed Queen Elisse is mourning the presumed death in battle of her lover, Ayrion the Guardian-Protector of the dead King Rhydan of Elondria. She is subject to the unwanted advances of the new king, Darkaran. She is approached by Kira, the chief of the Warren clans in Aramoor concerning the death of Ayrion and the kidnapping of children from the warren by persons unknown. Kira mobilises the clans to discover that the kidnappers are guards from the White Tower.
Itinerants, Tameel and Zynora rescue a badly wounded soldier from off the fateful battlefield where King Rhydan was killed. He thinks he is called Jair, but when their little party is assaulted by members of the White Guard he quickly discovers his real name is Ayrion even though he can’t remember what that means. As they travel further they come into contact with bestial armies of strange bald, white-skinned cannibals called vul-raks led by the resurrected general, Argon. They find themselves organising local resistance to this terror. This takes up a large part of the book and the battle descriptions are quite graphic.
Meantime, Kellen the forester mourns the death of his wife at the hands of Mangora and her spiders as they tried to kidnap his adoptive son Ty, the faeling who was also wounded in the encounter. The wizard, Nyalis has taken the sick Ty under his wing seeking to cure him. The council of magic wielders in Easthaven have organised to protect Ty, wholly unaware that Mangora has left a trap for Ty. This is an empty, magical book through which Mangora eventually ensnares Ty.
These and other themes knit together into another fat volume of adventures. It would appear that all the characters are moving towards Sidara and Easthaven in particular, which is where the political resistance to the White Tower is starting to organise. This volume is itself very much a plague of shadows as the next great event, whatever it is remains elusive. A good, strong tale of swords and sorcery!