THE LOST WAR – EIDYN: BOOK ONE by Justin Lee Anderson
King Lot Publishing p/b £12.99
Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson
The aftermath of war is much worse than the actual war. Whilst fighting is going on the primary task is to focus on the immediate exigencies of battle. After the war, the priority is to get everything working, and in that King Janaeus needs all the help he can get.
He appoints a new council, the head of which is Aranok, a loyal, highly skilled warrior who is already a King’s Envoy. In his turn, Aranok has a female sidekick, a very proficient archer called Allandria. They make a viable pair around which a good solid plot is constructed and presented in a clear, written manner. This very graphic style of production keeps the reader on their toes.
Sadly, there are two irritating aspects that manifest early within what is otherwise excellent work.
The first is the deployment of Gaelic as the language of magic. Aranok is described as a `draoidh’ which means either an enchanter or a very learned person. For the purposes of the tale, Aranok is a warrior who deploys magic whilst engaged in mortal combat. His magical expertise is demonstrated by using certain Gaelic words. There is no objection to the use of Gaelic as every living language needs support, but in presenting it in a magical context, it might acquire a perceived exclusivity placing it outside everyday use.
Secondly, and this is an issue that has been noted in other current fantasy fiction, Scottish history has been mined as a source for names. This tale speaks of a `Malcanmore Wall’, a fortification that has no relevance to Malcolm Ceann-Mor, an early King of Scotland; and then there is Dun Eidyn which is Edinburgh in Primitive Welsh. This jars and can cause a book to be thrown across the room! This is fantasy: why can’t the writer deploy the skilled imagination he has already amply demonstrated?
The story begins with two quests. Aranok and Allandria are matched by King Janaeus with Nirea, a former pirate and naval commander, and Glorbad, a former army officer to collect Queen Taneitheia, the deposed Queen of Gaulle from Barroch castle and bring her to Janaeus at his capital at Haven to be restored to her rightful throne.
In another part of the country Meristan, a monk of the Order of the White Thorn, and Samily, a female warrior within the same religious order are summoned by Janaeus to form a council, presumably with Aranok. Yet Samily has skills that extend well beyond those of a soldier.
There are many perils in this broken country. There are reivers looting the land of its remaining wealth and demons burning crops and property out of malicious intent. More concerning are The Blackened, human sufferers of a plague that blackens the flesh and gives them extraordinary energy to attack other humans who are fit and well. Nobody has a clear idea as to where each of these horrors is to be found.
Of course, Aranok and his team join up with Meristan and Samily to create a very effective fighting force. Aranok is able to divert to his family home of Mournside to discover it has not fallen to The Blackened. Here he starts to suspect some agency is behind all these horrors, seeking to manipulate and divert the energies of the king away from bringing peace to the land. Then he opportunely discovers The Blackened are not plagued but cursed and curses can be lifted.
This is a cunning tale which is well worth the reading. The characters are well-formed making for a thoroughly good yarn.