by Christopher Rowley
Reviewed by Coral
For the citizens of the city of Marneri, Fundament Day is the most important day of the year. It is on this day that Battle Dragons from across the realm can come to win a place in the legions, as well as the day that the protection spells laid on the city's walls are renewed once more. Only this year something is different: an ancient enemy is once again on the move. A bloody corpse, a troll inside the city's walls, and a bastard princess kidnapped from right under the guards' noses.
Now, Lagdalen the novice witch, orphan Relkin and his Dragon Bazil find themselves swept up in the greatest challenge their country has faced in a long time. And everyone's survival may well depend on them!
Plot wise this book has a few weak points. After a disastrous first sexual encounter with an elf who dumps her as soon as he can get his clothes back on, I'm not particularly convinced Lagdalen would be that trusting of a strange man (Relkin) who comes to her asking for a favor. Added to fact that there had been signs of an enemy presence in the city, it just seemed like too much to believe, for me, that Lagdalen would risk her future for a boy she barely knows and gamble the welfare of the city she was training to protect.
Of course, we are asked to believe an awful lot when it comes to Relkin. We are supposed to believe that, in a time when security is being heightened because of small enemy attacks, that Relkin can get across provincial borders and into Marneri without proper paperwork. No wonder Marneri's princess gets kidnapped! They probably could have grabbed the whole royal family before anyone noticed!
In terms of villains - the most important, central, and woefully under looked aspect of novels like this - there are some hits and some misses. One of their agents was competent. One was a ridiculous blowhard, letting his temper rule him, and single-handedly wrecked his own chances for success on his mission. The main villain, the leader of the enemy horde, why he would have captives - and not important, ranked captives, but just your run of the mill soldiers - dragged in front of him for interviews is beyond me. The gladiator style fighting his prisoners were subjected to for his amusement was setting himself up for disaster.
The dialogue fluctuated between too stiff and formal, and slangy-colloquial, to sentences the editor should have highlighted because they made no sense to me at all.
A lot of the middle section seemed to be just combat scene after combat scene, which I've never found all that interesting to read. One guy drives a sword in, the other ducks, or twists out of the way. Repeat for two pages, and you have you're fight scene. Boring!
All in all, as a first outing in this series, it wasn't bad. Maybe the author should have stretched the plot out across several books. You don't have to wrap out all your plot points (or even the majority of them) in one book. Just ask Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind.