cover image The Leopard

The Leopard

K.V. Johansen. Pyr, $18 trade paper (370p) ISBN 978-1-61614-903-1

Marakand’s Red Masks are governed by the Voice of the Lady of Marakand, a dark figure whose true nature is a closely held secret. As the Red Masks invade their neighbors, those they cannot rule are killed out of hand, or worse, bound to the Lady’s service as terrible mockeries. Deyandara, bastard heir to a lost throne and would-be bard, barely survived a Red Mask massacre; she seeks out the cursed assassin Ahjvar, hoping he will turn his deadly skills against the entity behind the Red Masks. If he agrees, Deyandara’s goddess Catairanach promises Ahjvar the one treasure that can tempt him: his own death. Although clearly the first installment in an ongoing series, an introduction rather than a complete novel, the work highlights Johansen’s strengths. A surprising number of characters and plot threads are deftly interwoven and tucked into comparatively few pages. The world of mages, half-demons, devils, and false bards is also an intriguing mix of the familiar and the novel, and while the plot is mostly an appetizer, the taste is fine enough to whet the reader’s appetite for future courses. (June)