Upon the unexpected death of his brother, Alexander becomes the heir to an unlooked for birthright. He is heir to a throne, but before he can claim that right, he must first recover one of the ancient Thinblades. Friends and allies assist Alexander upon his quest even as a myriad of evil doers work to thwart him.
The story started off strong with Alexander and his siblings seeing to protecting livestock from local predators. When an assassin’s arrow takes his brother, Alexander then gets told the family secret: they are the line of succession to an ancient throne. It’s a pretty heady thing to dump on a person who is just coming into adulthood. The action starts up early on in the story as Alexander, his sister Abigail, and their tutor and healer Luki flee the family estate.
The action weaves in and out of quieter moments. There’s weapons training, battle planning, a bit of romance, and some magic learning. At first, it was a pretty good mix, holding my attention without giving me battle fatigue. However, once Alexander dives into learning magic, there are chunks of the story that slow way down and get a bit tedious. I wanted to fast forward through most of these sections. Having one or two to show the reader how much effort the main character is putting into it is cool; having several, nearly back to back, was over kill.
At first, there’s only one female character (Abigail) but she’s right there with her brother riding and fighting. She’s good with a bow. She’s well written. Later, we get a few more female characters. Isabel is the daughter of a lord whose lands neighbor Alexander’s family. She’s also good with a bow and has a magical connection with a small hawk, which she uses as a kind of scout. Sometimes she is well written, and sometimes she falls into cliches. Alexander treats her with a kind of respect even as he very quickly falls in love with her. I felt the romance was forced, like the author felt he had to check that box off in order to have a complete epic fantasy. One of the cliches involves a kidnapped female who ends up weeping on her savior’s shoulder once she is rescued. Sigh…. I would have kidnapped Alexander and forced him to carry the firewood and water skins.
The world building is pretty standard for epic fantasy. I liked it and it worked for the story, but nothing special stood out about it. I enjoyed the quest in general, even if things got bogged down here and there. The Thinblade is a near myth even among the learned and wise. Indeed, it will take someone special to find one of these remarkable blades, and even more special to wield it with results.
Luki was one of my favorite characters. He had more than one role in the story and I liked this multi-dimensionality. Throughout the tale, he plays the cook, the teacher, the healer, or the alchemist. He’s a wealth of knowledge and also the confident to Alexander and Abigail. He also has a sense of humor.
Where this book shines is with the antagonists. Oddly, I found them more interesting than Alexander. Prince Faine of the Rishi has arisen and he means to conquer all of the seven isles. He’s been in this kind of suspended animation for hundreds or thousands of years and he’s not fully sane. This makes him unpredictable not just to the good guys, but also to his own baddie team. Then there is Patel. This dude scares me for several reasons. He’s dedicated, a true believer in where he has chosen to put his loyalty. He’s very, very skilled at what he does. Because he has such a sense of dedication and loyalty, he may turn out to be one of those characters that will sacrifice all to accomplish their commander’s goal even if he knows it is wrong. Yeah. He’s that kind of baddie. The sections with this characters were some of my favorites.
Narration: Derek Perkins did a nice job. Most of the book is told through Alexander’s eyes and Perkins had a nice young man’s voice for him. I liked his rougher voice for Patel and his somewhat mischievous voice for Luki. His crazy Faine voice was a little chilling! His lady voices were OK, perhaps needing a little more femininity.