Fraternal twins Nels and Suvi move beyond their royal heritage and into military and magical dominion in this flintlock epic fantasy debut from a two-time Campbell Award finalist.
Prince Nels is the scholarly runt of the ancient Kainen royal family of Eledore, disregarded as flawed by the king and many others. Only Suvi, his fraternal twin sister, supports him. When Nels is ambushed by an Acrasian scouting party, he does the forbidden for a member of the ruling family: He picks up a fallen sword and defends himself.
Disowned and dismissed to the military, Nels establishes himself as a leader as Eledore begins to shatter under the attack of the Acrasians, who the Kainen had previously dismissed as barbarians. But Nels knows differently, and with the aid of Suvi, who has allied with pirates, he mounts a military offensive with sword, canon, and what little magic is left in the world.
This hefty coming-of-age epic fantasy from Leicht (And Blue Skies from Pain), which launches the Malorum Gates series, features not one but two adolescent heroes: 16-year-old twins Nels and Suvi, children of King Henrik of Eledore and his queen from neighboring Ytlain. Eledore, home to the magic-gifted and nonhuman kainen, faces a mortal threat from the human Acrasians, who have no magic but possess a huge army, while the twins' nefarious uncle, Sakari, plots to seize the throne. Nels is renounced by the kainen king as defective because he lacks magic powers; grappling loudly with self-doubt, he becomes a soldier and then unconvincingly takes over Eledore's entire army. His sister, Suvi, happier in breeches than court dresses, gains command of the Eledorean fleet. Despite Leicht's attempt to flavor the proceedings with Finnish-like names, the worldbuilding tends to get bogged down in adolescent dialogue and sentimentality. She relies too hard on having her characters constantly plunge into action, with hardly any pauses for inner reflection or growth. With the subterranean Old Ones also threatening, Nels and Suvi apparently have a long road ahead, and the book's bloodthirsty violence may make it feel even longer.