"Wonderful . . . J. V. Jones is a striking writer." So says Robert Jordan, the author of The Wheel of Time epic fantasy series.
And Jones lives up to that praise in the highly charged epic adventure of Ash March and Raif Sevrance, two outcasts whose fate are entwined by ancient prophecies and need, in the cold, dark world that threatens to be torn asunder by a war to end all wars.
Isolated by their birthrights, they are but two who fight the dreaded Endlords, and their strength and courage will be needed if the world is to be saved from darkness."
Raif, wrongly accused and cut off from his clan by the treachery of their new headsman, has a talent for killing that is part of his curse and his burden. But he bears another burden of greater weight.
Ash is a sacred warrior to the Sull, an ancient race whose numbers have declined. Raised as a foundling, never knowing her true history, she must learn to accept the terrible gifts of her heritage.
But as Ash learns more of her greater fate, Raif's task looms dark and desperate, for he must journey through the nightmare realm of the Want, a place where even the Sull now fear to tread. For deep within the Want is the Fortress of Grey Ice, and there he must heal the breach in the Blindwall that already threatens the world. Should he fail, not even Ash's powers can save them. . . .
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The worst thing about this lengthy high fantasy is the opening summary of its equally weighty predecessor, but even those put off by the clumsy appetizer will soon find themselves savoring a main course of fine ingredients prepared with considerable skill. Jones has taken some style lessons from modern fantasists such as the eminent George R.R. Martin, but her tale is unique and intriguing, and its atmosphere unwaveringly compelling. The beautifully interwoven lives of its characters drive the story. Magically gifted changeling Ash March has escaped from her power-hungry foster father Penthero Iss with the help of outcast sharpshooter Raif Sevrance, whose kin were murdered by Vaylo Bludd, leader of a rival clan. Iss is playing various clan lords against each other in hopes that they'll leave a power vacuum for him to occupy. As three armies go on the march, Ash heads into the territory of the ancient and mysterious Sull. The lonely Raif maims himself to win acceptance in a colony of fellow exiles, only to suddenly learn his own destiny. Even the minor characters are complex and have fascinating stories: Raif's widowed mother is forced to marry her rapist; a dull-witted diamond miner tries to rescue his master; the young half-brother of a would-be king is bartered to another clan in exchange for their military support. Jones is brilliant at slow build-up of dramatic tension, but some climaxes feel brief and unsatisfying by comparison the book's only real flaw.