THE COVENANT RISING: Book One of the Dreamtime
Weak characterization undercuts British author Nicholls's otherwise alluring fantasy, the first in a new sword-and-sorcery series with a well-conceived setting. Prince Melyobar, the mad ruler of Bhealfa, a small state caught between two large empires, believes that Death is an animate creature intent on stalking him. Long ground under the heel of the powerful in Bhealfa and the two empires, a few rebels are looking for ways to create a more egalitarian society. Enter Reeth Caldason, a brooding, nearly immortal swordsman straight out of the movie Highlander , looking for a magician who can help remove the curse he's under. Instead, Reeth ends up stuck with an inept and earnest magician's apprentice, Kutch, who may have hidden talents that will enable both Reeth and the rebels to get what they want. Unfortunately, the supporting characters—notably Melyobar, who's built a mobile palace in his attempt to outrun Death, and Serrah Ardacris, a crack soldier in the army of the empire of Gath Tampoor turned reluctant rebel—are far more compelling than the clichéd Reeth and Kutch. Still, Nicholls has the makings of a truly interesting series, and hopefully will do better in book two. Agent, Howard Morhaim. (Jan. 4)
FYI: Nicholls is the author of Legion of Thunder and other titles in his popular Orcs: First Blood series.