A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publication year: 1991
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Gildart Jackson
Running Time: 9 hrs and 38 minutes

I’m a fan of Rusch’s SF books but this is the first fantasy I’ve read from her. It’s also her first published book.

Alaric is the King’s eldest son and heir. Even though he’s still very young, ten, he’s already trying to know how to do his future job properly. At the start of the book, he’s gone to see a mysterious Enos who can see his future. The Enos prophesies that Alaric will wise and feared but that he will be threatened with death.

Alaric is constantly asking his father about the ways to rule. However, his questions annoy the King and alarm the high nobles. Alaric wants to go the nearby big city Anda and Lord Boton promises to take him there. However, it’s Lord Ewehl who shows up to escort the young prince to the city. The Lord gives the boy some money and sends him off to explore Anda on his own. Unfortunately, Alaric is soon beaten and robbed. To his shock he finds out that Lord Ewehl hasn’t waited for him and nobody believes that he’s actually the prince.

Seymour is a son of a famous magician. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have his father’s talents and so he wasn’t properly trained. He lives on the lands of lord Dakin who has a dark reputation for hunting his enemies with dogs and Seymour is one of the few who has escaped such a hunt alive. When he hears that another man is being hunted, he helps the man. The man turns out to be Byron, a bard. Byron is rumored to have killed a lady and that’s why he’s in trouble. He’s, of course, innocent. He needs a powerful protector and to get that he heads to the King’s court. But getting to the King isn’t easy and lord Dakin is still after them.

The world has a few unique features even though the social system is a common feudal system. The Enos seem to be some sort of earth spirits but in physical bodies. They are attuned to the land and can sense if the land is in turmoil or “wants blood”. The Enos make prophesies and are forbidden to help humans.

Magic is real and magicians are accepted as another profession. Herbal healers help people and powerful wizards are in the Lords’ employ. Byron ends up leading a bardic troupe so we get to know more about them.

Alaric is an idealistic ten year old but he feels older to me. However, he has to quickly learn to live in his new life. Luckily, he makes friends who will prevent him from dying of hunger on the streets. He learns harsh lessons.

Seymour is in his mid-thirties and he’s lost his idealism long ago. He’s bitter at his father and unsure about his own abilities. He develops a quick attachment to Byron and the two travel together. Byron has ideas about how to get into the King’s palace and how to leave their pursuers behind.

The book has many other point-of-view character. Some of them are seen only briefly and some of them are the story’s bad guys. One of them is a starving street urchin.

I enjoyed the book but I don’t think it’s quite as good as Rusch’s later books. Still, it’s nice to read a stand-alone fantasy for a change.