A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publisher: Del Rey

Publication year: 1992
Format: print

Page count: 308

Maggiar is a small and rural kingdom. Lately, it’s in trouble and king Stani’s old (and only) wizard Karoly insists that he must seek advice from his witch-sister. Nobody knew he has a sister or that she lives over the mountain where nobody ever goes. Except that Stani’s mother came from a country over the mountain. Trolls and goblins haunt the forests.

Stani agrees to send Karoly with the escort of guards, the master huntsman, and Stani’s two eldest sons. Bogdan is the heir, a brash and proud young man. Tamas is the middle son, quiet and studious. The youngest Yuri is just fourteen and over his protests, he needs to stay. Tamas doesn’t want to take his foundling dog, so he makes Yuri promise to look after him.

The journey up the mountain is hard. The weather is constantly against the small group and Karoly behaves oddly, speaking rarely and then in riddles. When they near Karoly’s sister’s tower, they are ambushed.

Meanwhile, Tamas’ dog runs away and Yuri decides to follow him. Yuri thinks that the dog is following Tamaes, so Yuri takes his pony and little provisions and follows the group.

Russian mythology has clearly influenced this story. The goblins and trolls aren’t what you’ll find in a European-inspired fantasy. Also, while the story has a lot of magic, it’s not clear-cut spell casting. It’s dreams and not being able to do or think what you want to. Willing things to happen and other people’s will is against you. It wasn’t really clear in the book, either.

Tamas and Yuri are the two main POV characters. Both are very young and trying to understand what’s happening around them. Tamas is trying to figure out who he can trust and that’s not easy. But he thinks things through rather than brashly leaping to conclusions. Yuri knows how to take care of himself in the woods, even though this is the first time he’s done it alone. He’s scared but determined to find the dog and later to find his brothers. For his age, he’s very brave. The third POV character is the master huntsman Nikolai, an experienced woodsman who is trying his best to protect the foolish people under his care. The other characters are quite distinctive, even the dead ones.

Most of the book has a claustrophobic, fearful atmosphere. The rambling, repetitive style adds to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, it’s not very clear in places.

I liked the characters and the world, but the writing style didn’t really work for me.