THE FIFTH SORCERESS: Volume I of the Chronicles of Blood and Stone

Robert Newcomb, Author . Del Rey $26.95 (608p) ISBN 978-0-345-44892-7

Newcomb may be a newcomer to fantasy writing, but it doesn't show in this surprisingly original doorstopper. After wreaking all sorts of havoc in the kingdom of Eutracia, the evil sorceresses of the Coven were overcome and exiled by the wizards of the Protectorate. Now, 327 years later, Eutracian females are forbidden to practice magic, and males are made to swear a solemn oath to stay on the side of light and good. Across the ocean in Parthalon, the sorceresses still live, plotting to kidnap Princess Shailiha from Eutracia and use her to complete an incantation that will make them all-powerful—or destroy the world. Prince Tristan, Shailiha's brother and our protagonist, is perhaps the most cookie-cutter of the characters, a classic reluctant hero who'd rather wave a sword than sit on the throne. But the wizard Wigg, Tristan's companion and adviser, is no caricature of the omnipotent magical sidekick: he makes incorrect guesses and poor decisions and often fails to keep the headstrong prince in check. This isn't done for comic relief, but to put Newcomb firmly in the George R.R. Martin camp of realistic fantasy as he creates a world where fully realized characters die, everyone is in the dark about something and sometimes things simply go wrong for no reason at all. Thanks to the author's passion for tying up loose ends, the finish is neat, but it leaves you wanting more. Fortunately, the planned sequels (at least two) will provide that, as well as ample room for further character development. Agent, Matt Bialer. (Aug. 1)

Forecast:The publisher is set to make a big push for an author who could in time scale the same sales heights as Terry Brooks and David Eddings. In addition to national advertising, media and store appearances in Florida and author participation at major SF conventions, there will be copromotion with Palm Pilot, since the novel will also be released as a Ballantine e-book.

Reviewed on: 06/17/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
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