Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson
This tale is the second volume of a projected trilogy. It is a deliciously complex web of competing political destinies. It almost seems that the author has deliberately set out to create the most complicated story possible. He does it very well indeed, producing a work of both value and delight.
This is a world in which humans, dragons and fairies cooperate against a demonic entity keen on their conquest and submission. This fragile project is further endangered by splits within this creaking coalition as an alliance of humans seeks to cut out for themselves an even larger slice of the available pie. This latter initiative is led by Castallan, a wizard of some presumed, considerable talent.
There are scenes of both conflict and magic that are well written and presented in an intelligent and imaginative form. This is a solid work in which individual motives are clearly articulated and the outcomes described in detailed fullness. You can get deep into this book. In this the author is to be congratulated.
The description of the dragons as some sort of reptilian humanoid is managed very successfully and quite ingeniously played out. This adds greatly to the strength of the plot, inducing the reader to identify with the dragons, seeing them as the heroic solution whilst the humans continue as part of the problem. This is a very satisfying inversion to the norm. Yet every now and again we are forced to stand back to recognise that the real evil in this book is the demonic and appropriately named Rectar and his army of ruthless spectres. This play between the detail of the story and the reality of the big picture creates a disturbing dynamic that keeps the reader on their toes.
The only jarring note within this deliciously meticulous and fulfilling tale is that the author, a history graduate has looted Scottish medieval history to provide names for characters and places. We are introduced to Dalridia which sounds very much like Dal Riata, the first Scots kingdom among the Picts. Then we are introduced to a Somerled Imar, the Lord of the Isles. This is a clear appropriation of the twelfth century lord of Argyll, almost a legend in his own right who has an extensive gene pool of living descendants. I felt their pain until a Lord Annandale was introduced into the story. I then realised that someone was now relieving themselves into my own ancestral pot as this is the place from where I get my middle name.
This all goes to prove that you just can’t please all of the people all of the time.