cover image Blood of the Four

Blood of the Four

Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon. Harper Voyager, $24.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-264138-0

This hefty sword-and-sorcery adventure from frequent collaborators Golden and Lebbon (The Shadow Men) leaves room to bring its large, entangled cast of characters to a wider stage. At the beginning, the kingdom of Quandis is at peace. The study of magic has been left to the priesthood and largely ignored. Cunning and ruthless Princess Phela sees the awful effects of her mother’s addiction to magical lore, but once Phela becomes queen, she can’t resist the temptation of supernatural power. Meanwhile, Demos, the studly betrothed of Phela’s younger sister, is sold into slavery after his father is executed for blasphemy; Blane, a young member of the Bajuman caste (hereditarily lower than any slave) who doesn’t believe in the gods, stealthily trains as a priest but unwillingly begins to suspect that the gods and their magic are real; and Blane’s supposedly dead sister, Daria, becomes a swashbuckling admiral in the Quandian fleet. There’s something for everyone here, including some subtly feminist themes and several spectacular displays of magical conflict. This novel is an expert crowd-pleaser. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Mar.)