The Kingdom of Wendar is in turmoil. King Henry still holds the crown, but his reign has long been contested by his sister Sabella, and there are many eager to flock to her banner. Internal conflict weakens Wendar's defences, drawing raiders, human and inhuman, across its borders. Terrifying portents abound and dark spirits walk the land in broad daylight.
Suddenly two innocents are thrust into the midst of the conflict. Alain, a young man granted a vision by the Lady of Battles, and Liath, a young woman with the power to change the course of history. Both must discover the truth about themselves before they can accept their fates. For in a war where sorcery, not swords, may determine the final outcome, the price of failure may be more than their own lives.
Hard on the heels of her intriguing collaboration with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson, The Golden Key (Forecasts, Aug. 19), comes the first volume of Elliott's new high fantasy trilogy--and it proves an entirely captivating affair. Elliott works staple fantasy elements of battle, quest and loss into a resounding narrative revolving around three appealing protagonists. Alain is an adopted youth of unknown parentage, gentle with men and beasts, now intended for the monastery. He experiences a vision from the Lady of Battles, drawing him into the civil war between Wendar's King Henry and the king's sister Sabella, who claims the throne. Meanwhile, Liath is left an orphan incapable of realizing her considerable magical powers when the Aoi, enigmatic beings from a shadowy Otherworld, murder her father. She must escape from her eerily magnetic but sadistic human captor to join King Henry's messenger Eagles, witnessing savage battles against the nonhuman Eika fearfully ravaging Wendar's northern coasts. Dominating the novel, though, is a shining hero to haunt one's dreams--Sanglant, captain of the Dragons, Henry's elite heavy cavalry, and Henry's son by an Aoi woman who stole the king's heart when she vanished from human sight. Elliott models her world from a thorough understanding of medieval European history, leavened with imaginative twists of perspective, such as a monolithic church that recognizes a Lady as well as a Lord of Creation and is dominated by a female hierarchy. She skews language, too, just enough to make it both satisfyingly familiar and tangily other--an indispensable technique in conjuring convincing fictional worlds that never were, but that we, whether young or young in heart, wish could be.