This is high fantasy at it’s best. The book is balanced between action and character introspection. Ellion weaves his swordmanship with magic, creating a deadly force. Yet he is also doubtful about his rightful place in the world, having been a part of a horrible accident, having declared himself unworthy to the world at large. Letitia carries the burden of leading her people, but has not had the guiding hand of her mother during her key development years. The deities also come down from on high to tip the tide one way or another. Other magic users, plenty of swordwomen, nearly everyone is an accomplished rider, jealousies of power and people, and a touch of romance fill this book. The characters are complex, with no one being ultimate evil or ultimate good; in essence, real people populate these pages.
The writing itself flows easily, with carefully chosen phrases portraying the culture, setting, and social norms of the characters. Legends and myths are built into the world providing an ancient feel to the tale. The Tanaan’s world is crumbling due to lost knowledge after a great calamity. Ellion’s world is built on centuries of expectations. If I have any complaint, it is a mild one: Ellion repeated too often his self-doubts without explaining fully to the reader for several chapters.
*review updated after second reading in April 2013